The Gulf Stream, the Atlantic ocean current system that plays a vital role in redistributing heat throughout our planet, is the weakest it’s been in at least 1,600 years. That’s according a new study, published February 25, 2021 in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Geoscience by a team of scientists from Ireland, Britain and Germany. The researchers say the slowdown is likely linked to human-caused climate change.
The researchers compiled so-called proxy data – taken mainly from ice cores, ocean sediments, and corals, as well as from historical data, for instance from ship logs – reaching back many hundreds of years to reconstruct the Gulf Stream’s flow history. They found consistent evidence that its slowdown in the 20th century is unprecedented in the past millennium. The Gulf Stream – also known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) – helps move heat around the planet. The giant ocean circulation influences the climate of the east coast of North America from Florida to Newfoundland, and the west coast of Europe. Stefan Rahmstorf from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, lead author of the study, said in a statement:
“The Gulf Stream System works like a giant conveyor belt, carrying warm surface water from the equator up north, and sending cold, low-salinity deep water back down south. It moves nearly 20 million cubic meters of water per second, almost a hundred times the Amazon flow.”
Source: Earth Sky