Thursday, March 04, 2021

The Cold Blob in the Gulf Stream

New climate data shows that the Gulf Stream is now at its weakest in more than 1,000 years. The Gulf Stream is the warm Atlantic ocean current that stretches from the Gulf of Mexico across the Atlantic Ocean to the western coast of Europe. The Gulf Stream has a huge influence on the climates of the east coast of North America and of western Europe. Any weakening of the Gulf Stream could have serious consequences for the climates on both sides of the Atlantic, increasing sea levels on the east coast of America, causing colder weather in the UK, more heatwaves and droughts in western Europe and reduced rainfall in northeast Africa.

The New York Times has published a new interactive story map which explains how the Gulf Stream works, how it influences the climates in North America and western Europe and how its weakening could have serious consequences. In the Atlantic Ocean, Subtle Shifts Hint at Dramatic Dangers is a scrollytelling visualization of the ocean currents which carry the heat of the Caribbean waters up the east coast of the United States and across the Atlantic to Europe.

The NYT's globe goes on to show how a new 'cold blob' in the Atlantic, caused by melting Greenland ice, could seriously weaken the Gulf Stream. The accompanying article in the NYT explains how a previous weakening of the Gulf Stream, thousands of years ago, led to a drop of temperatures in Europe of around 15 degrees Celsius and led to North Africa becoming even more arid than it is today.

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