So, The Gulf Stream Is Slowing Down... - The Reykjavik Grapevine

So, The Gulf Stream Is Slowing Down…

Nanna Árnadóttir
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Wikimedia Commons

According to a new study, the world is now seeing a slowdown of the great ocean circulation that helps to partly drive the Gulf Stream, reports RÚV.

The study, published in Nature Climate Change, says possible consequences include significant extra sea level rise, and perhaps most worrying for Iceland, dramatic impacts on fisheries.

As more glacial ice melts – a process that is happening more rapidly than expected – the more fresh water is introduced to the Gulf Stream which slows the ocean’s circulating currents as it is lighter than saltwater and disturbs the normal sinking of dense, cold saltwater to the ocean floor, the main driver of Arctic circulation.

This is bad news for three reasons. Firstly the Gulf Stream is responsible for driving warm weather and water to Europe. Secondly, disturbing the circulation and salinity of sea water will likely have a negative effect on the ocean ecosystem, and thereby fisheries. Thirdly, Europeans are tired of the winter and depend on that sweet Gulf Stream to bring on the spring.

That said, one of the authors of the study, Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, believes that the rise in global temperatures brought on by global warming will offset drastic temperature drops caused by the slowing of the Gulf Stream, making any sudden doomsday scenarios unlikely.

Héðinn Valdimarsson of Iceland’s Marine Research Institute says the study comes as no surprise as researchers of the institute have noted a drop in water temperatures and an increase of fresh water present in the sea in the last two to three years.

However, Héðinn points out that given that the glacial ice has been melting significantly in the last two decades the increased rate of fresh water has not followed the rate of the ice melting.


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