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Earth Science

Ocean Current That Keeps Europe Warm Is Weakening Because of Climate Change (washingtonpost.com) 192

The Washington Post: The Atlantic Ocean circulation that carries warmth into the Northern Hemisphere's high latitudes is slowing down because of climate change, a team of scientists asserted Wednesday, suggesting one of the most feared consequences is already coming to pass (Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source). The Atlantic meridional overturning circulation has declined in strength by 15 percent since the mid-20th century to a "new record low," the scientists conclude in a peer-reviewed study published in the journal Nature. That's a decrease of 3 million cubic meters of water per second, the equivalent of nearly 15 Amazon rivers.

The AMOC brings warm water from the equator up toward the Atlantic's northern reaches and cold water back down through the deep ocean. The current is partly why Western Europe enjoys temperate weather, and meteorologists are linking changes in North Atlantic Ocean temperatures to recent summer heat waves. The circulation is also critical for fisheries off the U.S. Atlantic coast, a key part of New England's economy that have seen changes in recent years, with the cod fishery collapsing as lobster populations have boomed off the Maine coast.

Ocean Current That Keeps Europe Warm Is Weakening Because of Climate Change

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  • Ayup (Score:1, Interesting)

    That's one of them-there feedback mechanisms that cools the poles in the event they get too hot. I recall hearing about it twenty years ago, in the context of "No, the world won't end because of global warming, the planet has feedback mechanisms to dump excess heat. That's how it's still nice and comfy here after billions of years."
    • by Anonymous Coward

      feedback mechanisms to dump excess heat

      That sounds very inaccurate, slowing current won't "dump" the excess heat in any sense of the word. It simply won't move as much of it towards higher latitudes (at least that's the easy to imagine consequence). To "dump" the heat you'd need to get more of it to radiate back to outer space, i.e. negate the greenhouse gasses effects.

      • Yes and no. Yes in that the poles aren't "dumping" any more heat than they normally would be. They're just being heated by convection less and reflecting sunlight a little more. No in that if the heat stays at the equator, it'll radiate out to space faster. Remember: radiated power goes like T^4, but temperature drop is roughly linear with energy lost, meaning that the poles get colder at the expense of equatorial regions getting warmer, but the global average temperature doesn't increase and with more refl
      • A lot of the 'dumping' occurs as a result of having large areas of ice. Ice is white and reflects sunlight back to space (rather than absorbing it and reradiating it as IR, which is then trapped by the atmosphere). If a change in the ocean flow means that the ice caps cool, then it will cause more polar ocean water to freeze, which will result in more heat being dumped into space. I have neither the data nor the required spare supercomputer to tell you to what degree this will happen.
        • Ice forms on oceans fairly easily, but ice during arctic night paradoxically keeps the arctic warm(ish) by acting as an insulating blanket on top of the ocean. (the air's cold but life below the ice is busy)

          Ice during the arctic day is a good light reflector but there's not so much of it anymore and the ice thickness is decreasing, meaning it disappears sooner in summer and takes longer to reform in winter. Both these add to the warming effects.

          Snow on land needs moisture in the air and that comes from ocea

    • yeah....but not before it freezes the crap out of Europe.....

    • That's one of them-there feedback mechanisms that cools the poles in the event they get too hot.

      Except if ocean currents slow down, weather becomes more localized. Same if the jet stream stops, which it will if the conveyor stops.

    • Re: Ayup (Score:2, Insightful)

      So when will the poles stop warming? Bonus question when will the increasing warming of the poles start to slow down due to this feedback mechansim?
      • "So when will the poles stop warming"

        They won't. The mechanisms will simply change a little.

        The atlantic conveyor may slow, or descend below the surface before reaching Europe but it won't stop bringing warm water northwards even if it stops bringing warm weather. It's that water which matters as its where all the energy is. Weather is just what you see as a side effect.

        Incidentally if it did stop or slow down dramatically, apart from the other effects noted one of the more obvious details would be a fairly

  • Please measure in libraries of congress. Tx
  • by darthsilun ( 3993753 ) on Friday April 13, 2018 @09:20PM (#56434779)

    Don't get me wrong, I personally think that ACC is real, and a problem. But––

    The story I heard on NPR [1] today said:

    ...scientists disagree about what's behind the sluggish ocean current...

    but did go on to say:

    The only thing we really can do is obviously try and prevent global warming because that's the root cause of why we think it's weakening now...

    [1] https://www.npr.org/2018/04/13... [npr.org]

    • by pots ( 5047349 )
      I've only read the article you linked, but: it talks about two papers examining two different phenomena, both linked to climate change and both of which could effect oceanic currents. Also, the first quote you have there comes from the author of the article and the second quote comes from one of the authors of one of the papers. Those are quotes from different people.
  • /. already solved this in February.
  • I was just a little ahead of my time. But the business plan was sound.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    There is still some good conversation here on technical subjects, but on climage change it's a bunch of people who know very little about the subject being jerks.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Ocean Warming & Acidification - Dr. Alex Cannara [youtube.com]

    Gradually rising temperatures and seas are but a mere inconvenience next to the impending mass extinctions in the oceans and disruption of ocean currents. It is happening now, and there are already large dead zones that are now incapable of supporting life. To prevent global catastrophe will require enormous amounts of clean energy, not the symbolic non-solutions [roadmaptonowhere.com] that are in vogue today.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      What a bunch of nonsense. The planet has gone through plenty of hot and cold phases. For all that we know we are on the long tail of exiting an ice age. Every glaciation has killed plenty of species.

      Human civilization based on the climate patterns in the last hundred years being affected is not a global catastrophe, neither is your beach house being swept away because you're too dumb to carry out a long term risk assessment that's not based on denial and blind hope.

      • by Bengie ( 1121981 )
        Correct, the Earth has done quite a few warm and cold cycles. What worries most is why this warming cycle is happening about 10,000x faster than any of the prior.
    • I can attest to this. Almost every time I go diving, the tourist pamphlets and nearby sea museums and info pictures show beautiful vibrant colors. And then I go diving and I see so much less color than the images I'd been set up with. This is not anecdotal [time.com]. This is already seriously alarming, people. Hopefully, there's a lot of wrong scientists out there. Probably, they're not.

      Vote. Or, if you're flippant about math, statistics, and science, don't.
  • not a problem (Score:5, Interesting)

    by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Saturday April 14, 2018 @02:37AM (#56435605) Journal
    Paris accord will solve all the issues with Climate Change. I am sure that if we do not focus on stopping growth in emissions, and instead all focus on per capita emissions while allowing CHina, India, Brazil, South Africa, etc to grow, that it will solve all of these issues.
    I mean what could possible go wrong with stopping 1 small group of ppl while allowing others to grow far bigger in their emissions.
    • by Ichijo ( 607641 )

      You're asking what could go wrong with showing a little leadership?

    • The Paris accord might not be enough but at least it's an attempt. After all the first step to identify an addiction is to realize we might have a problem. And when it comes to China and most other countries you have to ask yourself are you being fair? Per person we use more energy, generate more waste and suck up more resources than most of these "poor" countries. I remember one show which showed a cocoa farmer who spent his entire life farming the stuff to make chocolate but had never tasted a single

    • I mean what could possible go wrong with stopping 1 small group of ppl while allowing others to grow far bigger in their emissions.

      Those *other* people you quoted are currently the largest investors in solar, nuclear, and green technologies. They have curbed emission increases an order of magnitude faster than most of the west.

      I think you best get your own house in order before you start looking out the window and realise the grass is greener next door. But I get it, coal won't jobs itself.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      China hit peak coal a few years ago. They are doing far, far more than the US to clean up. The US has no excuse.

      • Hmm. Ok. Why did china's coal production, consumption, and CO2 increase over 5% in 2017, while America's coal consumption and CO2 decrease for 2017? What excuses should America make for dropping our emissions for over 9 years in a row? We have gone from 24.6 down to 14.9. what excuses should we make for that? Not only do we no longer build new coal plants, but have been shutting then down the fastest of any group?
    • by Uberbah ( 647458 )

      and instead all focus on per capita emissions while allowing CHina, India, Brazil, South Africa, etc to grow, that it will solve all of these issues.

      Ah yes, the "countries with 3-4 times the population of the United States should pollute less than the USA" line of entitled dipshittery.

  • by foxalopex ( 522681 ) on Saturday April 14, 2018 @04:10AM (#56435753)

    The sad truth is most folks don't realize how fragile our planet is, it's a finely balanced chaotic system where a slight change in something as small as the CO2 concentration in the air is enough to cause a massive shift in climate. Nature normally takes thousands of years but we're essentially speeding it up into centuries or even decades. It's been known for years that the ocean sea currents could change with climate change and unfortunately it looks like it's coming true. If the oceans current shutdown it won't just cause Europe to get cooler. It could disrupt the monsoon rains which allow India to farm and provides water. If you have a billion people starving to death, I wouldn't want to explain to them how this wasn't my fault and I'm not sharing.

    • I wouldn't want to explain to them how this wasn't my fault and I'm not sharing.

      No worries, you'll be dead before that happens.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      This is mental. The earth is billions of years old, and it has had a climate able to support life for hundreds of millions of those years. How could you possibly describe such a system as "fragile"? Are you aware that the sea levels have risen and fallen by hundreds of meters over that time? That vast sheets of miles-thick ice used to cover areas that once teemed with tropical plants? That the enormous Sahara was covered in vegetation and water a scant 15,000 years ago -- a cyclic pattern that has been repe

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Uberbah ( 647458 )

        The earth is billions of years old, and it has had a climate able to support life for hundreds of millions of those years. How could you possibly describe such a system as "fragile"?

        Uh, every recorded mass extinction event in history? All of which came from the environment changing to fast for life to evolve or migrate.

        This is mental.

        Yes, climate change denialism is mental indeed. It's already costing you hundreds of billions every year - dealing with record storms and forest fires isn't free.

        • by DCFusor ( 1763438 ) on Saturday April 14, 2018 @11:55AM (#56436809) Homepage
          I'd point out - and the XKCD below also shows indirectly, that "supporting life" is hugely different than "supporting billions of humans in comfort equivalent to today where a significant fraction are super poor and oppressed". To say things aren't fragile in that sense is indeed mental. For what it's worth, I'm considered a conservative. Because a few neocons deny GW - and neocons now pollute both false-dichotomy political parties - doesn't mean we've all lost the ability to think and analyze. What are now called liberals are anything but. These "progressives" are trying to force me to think just like them, as any good totalitarian would. The so-called conservatives are nothing like the dictionary - they seem to want war, to supress a different set of rights than the "liberals" but are statist none the less, have forgotten conservative values like "look before you leap", "spend less than you make", "don't fix things that ain't broke" and "don't start wars" (well, both fake sides forgot that one - Obama, for example had more war-days * number of places we fought than anyone else in history. So much for a peace prize. I'm sure Libya is better off now, or...). I want my language back. These liars who do so to keep power over us ruin it so we can't discuss intelligently. That sucks. https://xkcd.com/1732/ [xkcd.com]
          • by Uberbah ( 647458 )

            These "progressives" are trying to force me to think just like them, as any good totalitarian would.

            Such as.....? Climate change is real, universal health care provides better care for less money, a high minimum wage creates jobs, and vaccines don't cause autism. If some cultist is completely immune to reason on issues that affect the rest of the human race, blunt force application of facts [youtu.be] is the only option left, along with public mockery. Like when Jon Stewart asked the lunar conspiracy theorist that

            • I agree with the frustration. I've used the Taiwanese health care system, and their $(1/6) health care was equivalent anecdotally (realistically, we could move in that direction, not copy). Lol, vaccines facepalm. Fox [businessinsider.com] is creating a nation of 45% idiocracy pushers, and calmly repeating scientific findings has got us absolutely nowhere. What are we supposed to do?

              I do relate to DCFusor. In Europe, I'm a conservative. In America, I'm acrimonious because I think the risk of stopping or changing the fre
              • I get very good and inexpensive health care - which has been utterly wrongly associated with health insurance, which, along with tort, and pharma...makes it expensive.
                When I go to a doctor not owned by a big conglomerate (Carilion in this area) - who knows I don't have insurance, they charge me cost + fixed fee - and it's 1/6th or 1/10th what the "official rates" are (more info in link below from a pro pointing out how to get this deal...).
                I paid ~$300 -total- for office visits, a few single spaced pages
            • Universal health care better? Obviously you need to get out more. Sure climate change is real, and all the suggestions about what to do about it are pointless and not being adopted anyway. How about we work on how to deal with it - and live - and fix the problems instead of the blame, as liberals (note lack of quotes, which weren't for scare, you ad hominem jerk, but because as I said, the word's meanings have been lost) always do. It was more important to Congress that Barry Bonds lied about steroids th
              • all the suggestions about what to do about it are pointless and not being adopted anyway...liberals bad .......I'm sick of it and sick of the utterly false idea that if one politician is wrong, the other one must be right - never stated but always assumed by people trying to force partisan bullshit down my throat.

                Liberals want to make laws protecting people that you don't care about, so what? Conservatives (read oil industry lobbyists) want you to ignore climate change. Believe or not believe, they really don't care, they spout FUD trying to get everyone to ignore the issue for their short-term profits. Do nothing. Don't vote. You're already picking a side.

              • by Uberbah ( 647458 )

                and fix the problems instead of the blame, as liberals (note lack of quotes, which weren't for scare, you ad hominem jerk

                What ad hom. The only sort of person who could claim to be insulted would be sex and/or race baiters like this piece of shit [dailykos.com] who finds the most pathetic excuse to call Bernie Sanders a racist, while himself being a big supporter of Hillary "Superpredators" Clinton.

                And it goes on and on. I'm sick of it and sick of the utterly false idea that if one politician is wrong, the other one must

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        > The earth is billions of years old, and it has had various climate settings able to support very different lifeforms over various periods for hundreds of millions of those years.

        When somebody say "fragile", there is a context. Fragile in the context of AGW is about sustaining billions of human life.

  • Let's sort things out "easily" (you know in science that's an euphemism for "mostly but there are also other things you don't talk about") for many people who doesn't understand how this "Climate Change" works.

    0) Our Climate lies in equilibrium of freshwater-saltwater. A difference in salt concentration is what makes the ocean water currents move; just like pressures differences make air move.

    1) Higher temperatures mean ice (freshwater) reserves melt faster. This implies a "shift" in equilibrium towards les

  • I recall reading about this topic roughly 20 years ago in an issue of National Geographic except then it was reported as a natural occurrence rather than man made climate change. They were noting temperature changes as far back as the 70's and speculated that the warm air that produced what felt like unnatural weather would shift to a different area of Europe at some point.
  • I no longer believe any assertion that contains the phrase "because of climate change." The planet's environment is too complex to model; any attempt to do so is doomed to failure, with one of the results being that people make all kinds of goofy predictions based on unreliable results.
    • I no longer believe any assertion that contains the phrase "because of climate change."

      "You made a coherent, rational point about this article, which was written because of climate change, and it makes you sound intelligent."

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