Mini Ice Age

Not by Fire but by Ice



 Updated 1 December 2005      

Failing ocean current raises fears of mini ice age

30 Nov 05 - The ocean current that gives western Europe its relatively
balmy climate is stuttering, raising fears that it might fail entirely and plunge
the continent into a mini ice age.

The dramatic finding comes from a study of ocean circulation in the North
, which found a 30% reduction in the warm currents that carry water
north from the Gulf Stream .

The slow-down, which has long been predicted as a possible consequence
of global warming, will give renewed urgency to intergovernmental talks in
Montreal , Canada , this week on a successor to the Kyoto Protocol.
(Isn’t this great? We’re heading into a mini ice age … and they call it
global warming.)

Harry Bryden at the Southampton Oceanography Centre in the UK , whose
group carried out the analysis, told New Scientist. "We are nervous about
our findings. They have come as quite a surprise."

The North Atlantic is dominated by the Gulf Stream – currents that bring warm
water north from the tropics. At around 40 north – the latitude of Portugal and
New York – the current divides. Some water heads southwards in a surface
current known as the subtropical gyre, while the rest continues north, leading to
warming winds that raise European temperatures by 5C to 10C.

But when Bryden’s team measured north-south heat flow last year, using a set of
instruments strung across the Atlantic from the Canary Islands to the Bahamas ,
they found that the division of the waters appeared to have changed since previous
surveys in 1957, 1981 and 1992. From the amount of water in the subtropical
gyre and the flow southwards at depth, they calculate that the quantity of warm
water flowing north had fallen by around 30%....most of the slow-down happened
between 1992 and 1998.

Nobody is clear on what has gone wrong. Suggestions for blame include the
melting of sea ice or increased flow from Siberian rivers into the Arctic . Both
would load fresh water into the surface ocean, making it less dense and so
preventing it from sinking, which in turn would slow the flow of tropical water from
the south. And either could be triggered by man-made climate change. Some
climate models predict that global warming could lead to such a shutdown later this

The last shutdown, which prompted a temperature drop of 5C to 10C in
western Europe, was probably at the end of the last ice age, 12,000 years ago.
There may also have been a slowing of Atlantic circulation during the Little Ice
Age, which lasted sporadically from 1300 to about 1850 and created
temperatures low enough to freeze the River Thames in London.

Do you suppose man-made climate changes prompted the shutdown of
12,000 years ago?)

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        (Thanks to many of my readers for telling me about this article.)




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