image: Jet Propulsion Laboratory
At least one potentially dire consequence of climate change predicted by some models doesn't appear to be happening yet: BBC News reports that though it made for semi-compelling cinema in The Day After Tomorrow, according to research published in Geophysical Research Letters the Gulf Stream does not appear to be slowing down. Scientists from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory say that new measurements of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation "show no significant slowing over the past 15 years." In fact, at least in a short time scale, recently it appears that things have even sped up a bit.
NASA oceanography Josh Willis says that though the latest climate models predict a slow down in the overturning circulation as the planet warms and more freshwater enters the system, at least for now that isn't happening.
Willis adds, "The changes we're seeing in overturning strength are probably part of a natural cycle. The slight increase in overturning since 1993 coincides with a decades-long natural pattern of Atlantic heating and cooling."
Last Ice Age Brought About by Changes in This Circulation
Why is this important? NASA describes it:
Without the heat carried by this circulation system, the climate around the North Atlantic--in Europe, North America and North Africa--would likely be much colder. Scientists hypothesize that rapid cooling 12,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age was triggered when freshwater from melting glaciers altered the ocean's salinity and slowed the overturning rate. That reduced the amount of heat carried northward as a result.
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