Ireland’s Climate Will Cool as Gulf Stream Slows

May 5, 2023

RTE (Ireland Public Media):

Ireland is likely to see a cooling of temperatures due to the weakening of the Gulf Stream, a report published by the Marine Institute has found.

The Irish Ocean Climate and Ecosystem Status Report found that the Gulf Stream, which is a strong ocean current that brings warm water from the Gulf of Mexico into the Atlantic Ocean, is predicted to decrease by 30% in the coming years.

The report also says that climate change has already contributed to a rising sea level of 2-3mm since the 1990s and a rise of half a degree in sea surface temperatures over the last decade on Ireland’s northern coast.

Dr Gerard McCarthy from the Icarus research facility at Maynooth University said the climate will be “much less extreme” if Ireland hits its climate targets.

Speaking to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, he said: “Some climate change is locked in and will happen but we will have a much less extreme experience if we hit those climate targets.”

Dr McCarthy said one of the “surprising” aspects of the report is that there is an “element of cooling” in the North Atlantic.

“So this is really remarkable that an area of the world is cooling when the whole other part of the world is warming up. We think this is a slowdown in the Gulf Stream system,” he said.

Dr McCarthy said the Gulf Stream is critical for Ireland’s climate as a small island on the edge of a large ocean and explained how Ireland relies on that heat delivered by the ocean.

He said: “Without the Gulf Stream system the climate of Ireland would be much more like the climate of Iceland.

“We have evidence from observations and from climate models that the Gulf Stream system is expected to weaken with climate change going into the future.

“What that means for Ireland is that we could be looking at a relatively cooler, and now that depends on whatever else is happening and how much the Gulf Stream weakens.

“But a relative cooling and increase in storminess and a decrease in precipitation, particularly in the summer time.”

Dr McCarthy said most future climate is determined by how much greenhouse gases are emitted.

“The difference between emitting a high emissions scenario and a much more moderate and controlled amount of carbon or reaching our targets and reaching carbon neutrality are very, very different.”

CBS News:

An influential current system in the Atlantic Ocean, which plays a vital role in redistributing heat throughout our planet’s climate system, is now moving more slowly than it has in at least 1,600 years. That’s the conclusion of a new study published in the journal Nature Geoscience from some of the world’s leading experts in this field.

Scientists believe that part of this slowing is directly related to our warming climate, as melting ice alters the balance in northern waters. Its impact may be seen in storms, heat waves and sea-level rise. And it bolsters concerns that if humans are not able to limit warming, the system could eventually reach a tipping point, throwing global climate patterns into disarray.

The Gulf Stream along the U.S. East Coast is an integral part of this system, which is known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, or AMOC. It was made famous in the 2004 film “The Day After Tomorrow,” in which the ocean current abruptly stops, causing immense killer storms to spin up around the globe, like a super-charged tornado in Los Angeles and a wall of water smashing into New York City.

As is the case with many sci-fi movies, the plot is based on a real concept but the impacts are taken to a dramatic extreme. Fortunately, an abrupt halting of the current is not expected anytime soon — if ever. Even if the current were to eventually stop — and that is heavily debated — the result would not be instant larger-than-life storms, but over years and decades the impacts would certainly be devastating for our planet.

Recent research has shown that the circulation has slowed down by at least 15% since 1950. Scientists in the new study say the weakening of the current is “unprecedented in the past millennium.”


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