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The North Atlantic ocean current may be slowing (yaleclimateconnections.org)
92 points by maze-le 64 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 34 comments



Consistently every year we see news of scientists saying that climate change is going faster than expected. That there is more methane trapped in the permafrost than expected[1], that the models the IPCC used didn't take into account such and such thing and so the next results are going to be closer to reality[2], that the cooling effect of aerosols is much greater than expected[3], etc.

At this point I just assume we are pretty much fucked. Even if we reached zero emissions today we'd still be suffering the consequences of climate change for centuries.

[1] https://phys.org/news/2018-03-permafrost-methane.html

[2] https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/04/new-climate-models-p...

[3] https://science.sciencemag.org/content/363/6427/eaav0566


A complex system such as the climate (a huge understatement) is full of non linear of feedback loops that we don’t understand or are even aware of. It’s very hard to model such a system accurately.

Chances are humans will be a blip after all? It’s amazing to me that we humans usually wait till the shit hits the fan before we do something about it. It must be some kind of evolutionary advantage inducing strategy in our behavior.


> A complex system such as the climate (a huge understatement) is full of non linear of feedback loops that we don’t understand or are even aware of. It’s very hard to model such a system accurately.

I agree on principle, but OTOH you have the IPCC working by consensus and being too conservative in their conclusions. Also working with data that is years old since their process is slow.

For example, we've known about feedbacks for a very long time.

> Mario Molina, who shared the Nobel prize in chemistry in 1995 for his work on depletion of the ozone layer, said: “The IPCC report demonstrates that it is still possible to keep the climate relatively safe, provided we muster an unprecedented level of cooperation, extraordinary speed and heroic scale of action. But even with its description of the increasing impacts that lie ahead, the IPCC understates a key risk: that self-reinforcing feedback loops could push the climate system into chaos before we have time to tame our energy system, and the other sources of climate pollution.”

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/09/tipping-...

Big media and some governments mostly listen to what the IPCC says so their responsibility is immense.


It's almost like they don't want to spook the cattle.


There are many things that can be done, unfortunately for anything truly effective to be done we need:

  1. Lower the quality of living for a huge amount of humanity
  2. Have massive technological breakthroughs
  3. Embark on large scale geo-engineering
2 & 3 are the only moral choices - condemning the world to live in poverty isn't ok.

Europe and the US are only ~25% of all emissions and the rest of the world is increasing at a staggering rate.


Be a vegetarian, ride your bike or walk to work, and live in a high-efficiency apartment in the city using solar and wind-generated electricity. Have 2 or fewer kids. Take holidays via train. Buy less single use crap.

Bonus! Give everyone 6 months holiday a year because humanity has more crap than it's ever needed but not enough time.

I mean, how much lower is that? I wouldn't mind it.


1. is not poverty though, and it is a moral decision if we chose collectively. Remember, billionaires are on average not happier than your average citizen. The people of many African countries are no less happy in aggregate than your average american. So why would lowering our collective level of consumption be immoral, if it did not lower our level of happiness?

We need to stop assuming that our current level of wealth is somehow the apex of progress: it categorically is not


4. lower the human population

Not having kids is probably the biggest contribution one can do for the environment, specially on countries with very high emissions per capita such as the US.


No worries, it's self regulating. No need to not have kids. I have a shimp colony in an aquarium. It only grows as much as the food source allows it to.

It would probably get crowded and quite hot in the future, but we'll manage without eugenics and not having kids, or having just one kid, which was tried before in China and was a failure.


Try feeding your shrimp with algae wafers, get them to reproduce a lot, then stop feeding them. Sure, population will downregulate to sustainable levels again, but individual shrimp will wiggle some choice words at you with their whiskers, while they are starving to death and are being consumed by their friends and family.


So you want to self-select for people who don’t care about the environment?


So you are implying that caring about the environment is a matter of natural selection and genetics?


I'd say that culture, like religion, is passed down by the parents. There are a lot of calls and attitudes that are passed down.


One thing I always wonder about is that people claim that solving climate change requires us to go back to the middle ages. This isn't correct at all. Electric cars exist. Cheap renewables exist. As we invest more into reducing CO2 emissions we gain more headroom for further inventions that make us independent from fossil fuels. The problem is that we don't make enough of these investments. Trump decided to support coal instead and Germany slowed down it's expansion of renewables.


Interesting topic, and perhaps the article/video that this article references is good, but the article in yaleclimateconnections.org is virtually devoid of any actual quantitative data. "May be"...how likely? "...slowing"...by how much? 1% chance of a 1% slowdown? 99% chance of a 99% slowdown? This article is virtually contentless.


Its quite impressive that this current transports 1 PW (yes, petawatts: http://www.pik-potsdam.de/~stefan/thc_fact_sheet.html). If it would be stopping completely, this would naively (excluding other accompanying effects) remove 1 PW of heating from the coasts of Europe.

This 1PW of heat would need to disperse somewhere else.


The effects of the gulfstream are utterly enormous.

Compare the climate at the arctic circle in Norway/Sweden to Canada.

The Arctic itself is very asymmetrical as a result.


I never understood why the Gulf Stream heats Europe but not the us east coast. It passes by there first. It seems like it would only get colder after that.


>I never understood why the Gulf Stream heats Europe but not the us east coast.

Who said it doesn't? It absolutely does, that's one of the reason why the east coast is warmer than equivalent (as of latitude) areas in Europe are (plus other effects on the weather there).


The east coast isn’t warmer. France is the same latitude as Maine.


https://oceancurrents.rsmas.miami.edu/atlantic/spaghetti-spe... shows the Gulf Stream as being pretty far away from Maine, though. From that map, I'd expect it to warm the US east coast below Cape Hatteras, and not much north of there.


Wow that explains it. Thanks. A picture=1000 words.

This even shows a cold pocket of water by northern Florida.


It does heat the east coast of the U.S, but not nearly as much as Northern Europe.

The main complication is that prevailing weather tends to move west-to-east (because of the Coriolis force at typical U.S. latitudes), which means the east coast gets more continental air masses from Canada and the Plains than oceanic air masses. But compare Boston to Chicago, NYC to Kansas, or Washington D.C. to Colorado. All of the former are at higher latitudes, but tend to have milder temperatures than the latter. (Some of this is due to the moderating effect of water in general, but winters in coastal Boston are generally milder than in Chicago despite the latter also being on water and at a lower latitude.)


The East Coast is a lot more than Maine though. By that point the Gulf Stream has already moved eastwards...


> This 1PW of heat would need to disperse somewhere else.

more hurricanes


James Burke explains it 30 years ago: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RfE8wBReIxw&t=47m35s


It's sobering how on the money After the Warming was. The most glaring thing looking back from now was how little time he thought would be wasted, in a few years of PR and denial, before humanity finally gets its act together with a global world war scale response and a, IIRC, UN Planetary Atmosphere Authority.

A good take on what we should be doing, even now. Well worth a watch of the whole 2 programme mini series - just forgive the late 80s CGI. :)


Been hearing about the possibility of this since 1999 or there about when it was covered at a university lecture. Then there was the movie: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Day_After_Tomorrow Like global warming, it is regularly predicted and in some ways we become immune to the predictions because it is on such a long time scale compared to our attention.

Humans do not do well with long-term threats in which we have to make everyday sacrifices. We do better with long-term threats that are clear economic opportunities, such as buying better airport scanners and the like, something the sales guys can really sink their teeth into.


That movie was mentioned in the article.


If true, is a problem for Europe and there will be consequences and significative economical loses.

In the list of posible benefits is the "instantaneous" recovery of submarine kelp forests vanished in the last decades


It would be nice to have measurements of the current, rather than just the temperature. The colored plot also looks suspicious, I wonder if it's based on a deviation from normal rather than absolute temperature.


> I wonder if it's based on a deviation from normal rather than absolute temperature.

It is.


The global conveyer belt is really important to global climate. There has been speculation that warming and CO2 absorption by oceans could cause it to slow or stop, triggering an ice age or other extreme catastrophic extinction-level events.

Fun to think about: maybe it's happened before after a similar industrial era, buried far below. (Unlikely but conceivable.)


Why Iceland is green and Greenland is icy?




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