Sunday, December 04, 2005

End of Gulf-stream in sight?

We have read it on several newspapers already and I think it will continue to circulate. It even reached Die Welt and got an article, which was more balanced than I had thought.
But there are also experts who are weary of the ongoing alarmism and want to research in peace and rational debate. However, those people are no good in printing fearsome articles about a coming catastrophe. Since the end of the cold war, this urge for biggness in catastrophe and doomsaying, this worshipping of fear by the people and the media, has increased big times.

It's good that some people give us a better impression (from the expert above):

Your News story "Gulf Stream probed for early warnings of system failure" (Nature 427, 769 (2004)) discusses what the climate in the south of England would be like "without the Gulf Stream." Sadly, this phrase has been seen far too often, usually in newspapers concerned with the unlikely possibility of a new iceage in Britain triggered by the loss of the Gulf Stream.

European readers should be reassured that the Gulf Stream's existence is a consequence of the large-scale wind system over the North Atlantic Ocean, and of the nature of fluid motion on a rotating planet. The only way to produce an ocean circulation without a Gulf Stream is either to turn off the wind system, or to stop the Earth's rotation, or both.

Real questions exist about conceivable changes in the ocean circulation and its climate consequences. However, such discussions are not helped by hyperbole and alarmism. The occurrence of a climate state without the Gulf Stream anytime soon - within tens of millions of years - has a probability of little more than zero.

Carl Wunsch
Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences,
Massachusetts Institute of Technology" (Nature 428, 601, April 8, 2004)

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