Fears that global warming will shut down the Gulf Stream and plunge Britain into a mini-ice age are unfounded, a study shows.
There is no evidence the phenomenon – which brings a constant flow of warm water and mild weather to northern Europe – has slowed down over the past 20 years, climate scientists say.
‘The changes we’re seeing in overturning strength are probably part of a natural cycle,’ said researcher Josh Willis, from Nasa.
The Gulf Stream is vital to Britain’s mild climate. Without the flow of warm water from the Mid Atlantic, the British Isles would be 4-6c colder than they are.
Some environmentalists have argued that global warming could shut off the stream – sending temperatures spiralling down across Europe as they rise elsewhere.
The controversial scenario was dramatised in apocalyptic Hollywood blockbuster The Day After Tomorrow and is predicted in some computer models of climate change.
The idea that a slowdown of the ocean currents would trigger such a rapid change in climate is pure fantasy, explained Dr Willis.
‘But the Atlantic overturning circulation is still an important player in today’s climate,’ he added.
‘Some have suggested cyclic changes in the overturning may be warming and cooling the whole North Atlantic over the course of several decades and affecting rainfall patterns across the U.S. and Africa, and even the number of hurricanes in the Atlantic.’
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