Thursday, December 08, 2005

Global Warming Could Halt Ocean Circulation, With Harmful Results

Some years ago I felt like Chicken Little. I'd read about the possible influx of fresh water from melting ice sheets in the Artic and Greenland, and how this could slow or stop the thermohaline "conveyor belt" currents in the oceans, which transport heat to the North Atlantic.

This circulation process, researchers say, is not inevitable. Research suggests it may have fluctuated or even stopped numerous times in Earth's distant past, and that it's especially sensitive to moderate increases in temperature or influxes of fresh water. The same very cold, very salty water that sinks in the far North Atlantic Ocean simply won't sink if it's just a little bit warmer or a little bit less salty. And at various times, it appears these changes have happened not in geologic terms of thousands of years, but rather decades(*)

Everywhere I went, I cried,"The Gulf Stream is in danger of stopping! The Gulf Stream is in danger of stopping!" And, like Chicken Little, I was pretty roundly ignored. Even folk who agreed that the whole "human induced global warming phenomenon" was real tended to think such a catastrophic thing was unthinkable.

If you wish to continue to think such a thing is unthinkable, whatever you do, don't look at this link.

You know how sometimes the weatherman predicts "25% chance of rain" and you think, well, that's not much? But sometimes even with only a 25% chance of rain it does, indeed rain?

Here's a quote from the article:

"We found that there is a 70 percent likelihood of a thermohaline collapse, absent any climate policy," Schlesinger said. "Although this likelihood can be reduced by the policy intervention, it still exceeds 25 percent even with maximal policy intervention."(*)

"Thermohaline collapse" means no Gulf Stream, means the moderating influence of the Gulf Stream is gone, means mighty cold weather for the north eastern United States and northern Europe.

Sometimes "global warming" can mean "localized freezing."


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