FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Global Warming Could Cause Cooldown In Europe

Through an odd chain of events, climate change related to global warming could create substantially colder weather patterns in Britain and Europe.

The Gulf Stream, which delivers relatively warm water to the region, is powered in part by the sinking of supercooled water in the Greenland Sea. As cold arctic water sinks, warmer water from the south flows in to replace it, driving the Gulf Stream current. But thanks to warmer temperatures, this sinking effect has weakened significantly. As a result, warm Gulf Stream waters could cease to reach Europe within the next few decades, sending temperatures plummeting across the continent.

The warming of the Greenland Sea waters was measured by Cambridge University researchers aboard Royal Navy submarines. Among the phenomena the researchers noted were the thinning of North Polar ice caps and the demise of the Odden ice shelf, which hasn't formed properly since 1997.

Peter Wadhams, the Cambridge professor who led the study, compared the effects to those portrayed in the 2004 movie The Day After Tomorrow, which envisioned a sudden ice age brought about by rapid climate change. "One of the frightening things in the film... showed how the circulation in the Atlantic Ocean is upset because the sinking of cold water in the north Atlantic suddenly stops," he said.

Though the possibility of Europe freezing as a result of this activity represents one scenario, others are less dramatic. Not receiving Gulf Stream waters could actually benefit Europe by keeping it temperate while the rest of the world broils under higher temperatures.

Source: Times of London