What do you mean the Gulf Stream stopped?

Posted in Abrupt Climate Change at 10:47 am

Did Poseidon just put a trident in front of it? Wouldn’t the water just go around the prongs?

I said no discussion of the premise and already you’re asking how the Gulf Stream stopped.

The short answer is that fresh water from the melting of the Arctic ice cap and Greenland ice sheet dilute hot salty surface water coming north in the Gulf Stream.  When cold Arctic winds cool the water it should sink, dragging more surface water northwards while flowing south along the bottom of the ocean.  If extra fresh water comes into the Gulf Stream faster than it is being moved south, the water becomes less salty, sinks more slowly or not at all, and the Gulf Stream slows.  If the surface of the Gulf Stream becomes too ‘unsalty’ the water is no longer heavier than the water below it so the Gulf Stream ‘stops.’

William Curry, Director, Ocean and Climate Change Institute, gives a nice overview.  Please note that Curry says the Gulf Stream won’t stop, it just won’t go as far north. For our purposes we’re going to say it stopped.

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