Ocean Currents May Cool the Climate for a Decade

Article written: 1 May , 2008
Updated: 24 Dec , 2015
by

It would appear that rising atmospheric temperatures may be slowed or even stopped over the next ten years due to periodic changes in ocean circulation. As the Gulf Stream slows the flow of warm tropical waters from the equator to the North Atlantic, North America and Northern Europe will experience a slight reduction in atmospheric temperatures. This appears to be a natural process that has occurred in historic records. But don’t go getting too excited, this will only pause the global warming trend at best. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) forecasts a global temperature rise of 0.2°C (0.36°F) per decade, and this trend will continue after the currents have settled…

The oceans are the planets huge heaters and refrigerators. Within the oceans are complex and highly dynamic flows of warm and cool streams. One stream in particular, the Gulf Stream, reaches from the tropical waters of the Gulf of Mexico to the cold waters of Northern Europe. As the tropical stream of water travels north and cools, it sinks and flows back in the opposite direction, carrying the cold North Atlantic water south. This ocean “conveyor belt” maintains the surprisingly warm weather systems that Europe experiences. Without this supply of ocean heat, countries at these high latitudes (like the UK where weather systems are dominated by ocean conditions) would experience the harsh winters more associated with Moscow.

So, in research published in Nature on Thursday, it would seem the North Atlantic is about to get a little cooler. Mojib Latif, professor at the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences in Kiel, northern Germany and his team predict a cooling in North American and European regions, whilst the temperatures of tropical regions will be stabilized. Scientists have known about the weakening of the Gulf Stream for a long time, but this is one of the first studies to demonstrate how this process may influence global temperatures and how global warming isn’t necessarily a gradual increase. But there’s a catch. This trend can only be sustained for ten years, after which atmospheric global warming will continue to increase at the IPCC rate. The German scientists are clear that they are not disputing the IPCC figures:

Just to make things clear, we are not stating that anthropogenic [man-made] climate change won’t be as bad as previously thought. What we are saying is that on top of the warming trend, there is a long-periodic oscillation that will probably lead to a lower temperature increase than we would expect from the current trend during the next years.” – Mojib Latif

This work predicts that the Gulf Stream will slow over the next few years, but other studies argue change is happening now. The saltiness of the Atlantic waters is also a concern. Due to the huge input of fresh melt water from Greenland’s glaciers and Siberian permafrost over the past few years, the stream has been strongly affected. It would appear there are many factors when considering how these vast currents can be influenced.

There is a warning in this new study. The weakening of the Gulf Stream is part of a natural oscillation. We may be facing a weakened stream over the next ten years, cooling the climate, but there will also be a strengthening of ocean currents in the future. What happens when the stronger currents begin heating North Atlantic waters?

Source: Physorg.com


27 Responses

  1. John says

    “The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) forecasts a global temperature rise of 0.2°C (0.36°F) per decade, and this trend will continue after the currents have settled…”

    Of course the IPCC doesnt seem to have seen this little cooling development coming in all its modeling and predictions.

    So really… How much can we trust them?

  2. Michael says

    But, if we’re going to go through a cooling phase despite all the irreparable damage we’ve been told we’ve done to the climate, how bad could this have otherwise been?

    Maybe this article could have been titled “Man-made CO2 emmissions save Earth from Mini Ice Age”

    Thank you SUV drivers, you’ve helped avert a possible catostrophe.

  3. Steve says

    So doesn’t this study counteract the whole Co2 theory? With the cooling of the gulf stream, won’t that in fact increase the amount of ice that stays frozen during the year, then it heats up, melts again causeing the same cycle? Why can’t either side just admit they don’t have a clue whats happening

  4. marcellus says

    Al Gore did not invent the internet, but I do believe he invented “Global Warming”. alan’s comment about population is the best one put forth in the responses.

    Al Gore can come and shovel my sidewalk.

  5. I am going to stick my neck out and make a prediction, but before doing so, I will explain where I am coming from. In the past, we have often seen temperature graphs showing the end of an interglacial period as the temperatures dropping in a straight line from high to sufficiently low to bring on an Ice Age. For many years that intrigued me. How do we account for the sudden change.

    Some years ago, Scientific American reported about the huge, but slow moving underwater current flowing between Newfoundland and Greenland. It is a bottom flow about 200 feet deep and covers most of the complete stretch of water between the two land masses and flows at about 4 feet per second. The depth of the water is about 800 feet.

    We see much of the edge ice on Greenland is melting. The ice on Greenland is, in some places, 10,000 feet thick.

    What if the melt accelerates sufficiently to bring enough ice down at one time to block that flow?

    There would be nothing to stop the ice.

    There would be no energy source to melt it fast enough.

    It would bring the global conveyor to an immediate dead halt. The worlds ocean flow would STOP.

    THAT would start a new Ice Age.

  6. Andy C says

    Steve,

    > So doesn’t this study counteract the whole Co2 theory?

    No. CO2 is still a greenhouse gas, and it is still resulting in an upward trend in temperatures (the study authors are very clear about this). The authors of this study are simply stating that for a relatively short period of time, the global warming signal will be masked by this periodic change in ocean circulation.

    It really is amazing that people are quite happy to jump on the ‘cooling’ component of the article, and completely ignore the accompanying message of the authors of that same article that says global warming isn’t going away.

    In fact, given that the authors still think that temperatures will rise over the next decade, just not by as much as would be expected in the absence of such a circulation trend, perhaps the message you should be taking from this is that an event that would ordinarily LOWER temperatures over the same period, will not do so…. further evidence for the anthropogenic impact on climate perhaps?

  7. Andy C says

    To the end of my last post I should add ‘assuming that the prediction is borne out’, this is after all, a prediction of future events… it isn’t evidence of anything yet.

  8. alan says

    I wonder if Al Gore will have to give back his Nobel prize, OOP’s!
    So has anyone figured out how big is our polar caps are supose to be? 11,000 years ago they were down in the US. I think people are spazing out for nothing and others trying to make money off of the deal.
    Population is the real thing to fear.

  9. Peter K says

    Thanks Andy, for reading without bias, and getting the whole story.
    It amazes me that people always seem to read just what they thought in the first place. Please, this is a scientific forum, quit with the knee-jerk reactions and I told you so’s.
    Intelligence goes with thought and consideration, not bias and prejudice.

  10. Al Hall says

    No “knee-jerk” reaction here. Well, okay.. Just a little one. Please forgive.

    Damn! If this new ‘theory’ pans out, the environmental alarmists are going to have to find another way to trick millions of people that humans are bad.. and have no right to live instinctively, as all of the other animals do. … Okay, finished knee-jerking.. 🙂

    Our “contribution” to global warming is negligible from an atmospheric sense if you analyze the numbers. Our atmosphere contains less than one percent of CO2. True that in the past 100 years or so, we have helped to increase it by more than 30 percent, but it is still less than one percent of our atmosphere. Hence the term “trace gas”. Does our contribution really affect the rate of climate change? Maybe… Maybe not. Each time our planet goes through an ice age (which we are currently in, I might add) and a warming trend, it doesn’t happen at the same rate or severity.
    To those ‘believers’: Say what you will about us being the cause of accelerating the warming trend, but please don’t call it “fact”. There just isn’t enough proof to say it is factual (it could be true, it really could be). But for now, it is just speculation. It really is.
    Here is a thought: Maybe because we are protecting more and more plant and animal life as the years go on, that that is contributing to global warming! Plants and animals are the primary source of CO2 emissions, you know.. 🙂 Sorry, I couldn’t resist.
    Sorry in advance if I irritated any of you staunch supporters of the global warming theory. Environmentalists and animal rights activists too. Try not to scream at me too much. 🙂
    I am more apt to be a believer when I am presented with facts. Dark matter and dark energy are interesting theories and sound if they could be possible. Or the Higgs boson. Looks like there could be some evidence. Possibly… Same goes for us being the cause of accelerating global warming. Looks like there could be some evidence of it, but I would prefer facts before jumping on the band wagon.

  11. George Basile says

    I think Al Hall’s comment of May 2 at 704 am pertaining to the percentage of CO2 is laughable. All along, reputable climate scientists have stated that CO2 is a powerful greenhouse gas and that concentration increases of PARTS PER MILLION” change the greenhouse effect. Most laypeople are fooled when they don’t understand that a small fraction of a percent is still a change of hundreds of PARTS PER MILLION concentration and that a small change in PPM is what we are talking about.

  12. baley says

    Al Hall (and all the climate deniers) may I remind you to read the post?
    In case you didn’t understand what this article is all about, the shut down (or slow down) of the golf stream will be a local effect and time limited too.
    This effect It is also well known to the IPCC and it was taken in consideration.

  13. Al Hall says

    Baley,
    If you are suggesting that I am a denier, I’m not. I’m a skeptic.

    George,
    Happy to give you a good laugh.. 🙂

    Cheers..

  14. Tim says

    I have to agree with Al and George.The “crisis” is media generated. This could be a sped up natural process. THis could very well lead to a new ice age. I am skeptical about the real affect of the air pollution. Its bad but the Earth has repared its atomsphere after astroid impacts and things like that. Al Gore is a fraud who remade his political career with this gobal warming phenomenon. I know 10 year olds who are more qualified then him.

    P.S. Skepticism has been the savior of man kind for years. If we believe everything that the media says we would all be worried out of our minds. And roits would go on in all the citys.

  15. Tim says

    Thanks Al, that site had some intresting ideas. Anybody who is a skeptic should check it out.

  16. George Basile says

    No one should believe anything on Wikipedia since I currently learned that anyone can edit the information stored there.

  17. Al Hall says

    George,

    I also heard that. That is why I suggest going to the references.

  18. baley says

    Al Hall
    Do you have even the skills to understand the subject. Don’t get me wrong but it’s not that easy to understand.

    I am a chemical Engineer but I am certainly do not qualify as an expert. I cannot judge the quality of the scientific work done (you would have to be really an expert) but I trust the peereview process and the overwhelming evidence presented over the years.

    I guess it’s a case of more wanting to believe the reassuring story some scientists tell ( most of them cannot even be called experts )

  19. Al Hall says

    Baley
    Nor am I an expert on climatology, but I do have reading abilities (and comprehend what I am reading)… and I am reasonably sure of who is writing from both sides of the subject. That this debate continues is testament to the lack of consensus.
    I guess that by some people not taking sides is still enough to rattle some. Almost as much as taking a side.
    .. “The evidence is right there in front of your face! Are you too stupid to see it? Or just brainwashed?” …
    I’ve heard that from both sides. 🙂

  20. Reba says

    What a great read…thanks people….

    I’ve been a weather watcher all my life and find solace in listening to nature. I’m fascinated by climate change and strongly believe (as an observer and prophet) that we’ll see a climate collapse in the next few years. We’re in for an ice age, absolutely. It’s happened before in cycles and it’s happening again. Whether or not humans are responsible is the human ego trying to be involved, like the dysfunctional drunks we all are, dry or not. We’re an egocentric, destructive species who’s addiction to pain and suffering has not only polluted the planet but poisoned the minds, bodies and souls of almost every other species, including our own on the planet. If you consider the Earth as a soul of her own you must see that she knows how to heal herself. It’s time to shake the fleas from her coat. An ice age is a perfect remedy for the Human Virus.

    So, scientifically educated people….where do we go start a self sustaining commune to survive?
    Arizona?

  21. Al Hall says

    Reba –

    Mars!!!…. Let’s go for a fresh new start…. 🙂

  22. Reba says

    Mars?
    That’s cheating….

  23. Tony says

    Gee, whatever happens , somehow the idea of global warming is protected ! If we woke up tomorrow and ice covered all of NYS somehow global warming would be the reason.

    I have read a ton about this topic , both sides , and the only conclusion I can come 2 is it is just another way to sap Americans of there income and maintain diversity and keep people in a you against me mode.

    How many of you will buy the latest phone ? Computer ? Car ? Tool ? toy ? How many will not and claim it is for the health of a planet ?

    How many realize oil has gone from 62 a barrel before gore spoke up with his movie to 125 a barrel in less then 18 months ? How many realize Africa is starving because bio fuels have made the cost of staple foods , wheat and corn become investment opportunities because they cost so much ?

    How many know Arctic ice grew by 2 million KM last winter ? How many know This April was the coolest in 117 years ?

    How many know a weather person , is only right part of the time ? How many realize there so called experts are the very same who teach and write the text books for there weather forecasters ? How many realize we can not predict where a hurricane will make land fall , a tornado will strike or when a earth quake or volcano will erupt ? Let alone when it will rain , snow , or be sunny ?

    You are trusting science , I understand our willingness to do so , but remember science fails us every day , people die as a result of science and yet for some reason millions of us tend to side with a scientist and TOSS AWAY COMMON SENSE available to us through reading and simply waking out side IN MAY needing a leather jacket !

    The argument is senseless , the earth is not in danger , but because so many have bought into this global warming , we are putting ourselves in danger , Africans are dieing as we argue from starvation , oil is rising because we think it is rare , running out and killing the earth,, and our economy , gas and food prices are rising at alarming rates .. Who are WE HELPING ? I want to know ? My grand kids ? really How so ?

    It is time to stop , this joke is getting dangerious , we need to wake up and use common sense ..

  24. Bill says

    I would like to see the geological community weigh in on this dialogue. I know that 25,000 years ago, people walked across the straights between Siberia and Alaska because lower ocean levels left a land bridge. I also know that 16,000 years ago, the edge of the ice ran through the upper midwest of the United States. Both of these situations were brought about by larger volumes of arctic ice, who’s retreat has been going on far longer than the presence of SUV’s.

    I also know that for most of the last 100,000 years, the northern hemisphere has been covered with ice, and that the current state of moderate temperature and decreased ice is more of an anomally than it is a norm.

    It seems to me, a bigger concern is when does the panet revert back to it’s natural state of an arctic northern hemisphere?

    What is the big driver of ice retreat and advance, is it SUV’s (no pun intended) or is it the relative oscillation of the tilt of the planet during it’s travels around the sun?

  25. Al Hall says

    It’s the oscillation (per se), among other things… I suspect in about forty or fifty years, it will be admitted..

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