“Welcome to this week’s installment of ‘Don’t Mess with Geophysics,'” states the Washington Post – not the most liberal newspaper in America.
According to WaPo, there is possible destabilization of the Totten Glacier of East Antarctica, which could unleash over 11 feet of sea level rise in coming centuries.
This week brings news of another climate issue.
According to a new study just out in Nature Climate Change by Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, and a group of co-authors, we’re now seeing a slowdown of the great ocean circulation. This circulation helps to partly drive the Gulf Stream off the U.S. east coast, among other roles.
The consequences could be dire, claims the Washington Post – including significant extra sea level rise for coastal cities like New York and Boston.
The Gulf Stream is a vast, powerful, and warm current, that transports more water than “all the world’s rivers combined,” according to the NOAA.
But it’s just one part of a larger regional ocean conveyor system – scientists technically call it the “Atlantic meridional overturning circulation.”
This, in turn, is just one part of the larger global “thermohaline” circulation (“thermohaline” conjoins terms meaning “temperature” and “salty”).
For the whole system, a key driver occurs in the North Atlantic ocean. Here, the warm Gulf Stream flows northward into cooler waters and splits into what is called the North Atlantic Current.
This stream flows still further toward northern latitudes — until it reaches points where colder, salty water sinks due to its greater density, and then travels back southward at depth.
The Washington Post claims that this “overturning circulation” plays a major role in the climate because it brings warm water northward, thereby helping to warm Europe’s climate, and also sends cold water back towards the tropics. This could change due to climate change.