Scientists have warned that serious weakening of the Gulf stream ocean currents system is likely to have extreme impacts on global climate. Serious disruption to giant ocean currents might cause severe storms in Europe, rapid rise in sea levels on the eastern coast of the US and increasing drought in the Sahel in Africa.
The alert follows the revelation this week that the system is at its weakest ever recorded. The new research worries scientists because of the huge impact global warming has already had on the currents and the unpredictability of a future “tipping point”.
The currents that bring warm Atlantic water northwards towards the pole, where they cool, sink and return southwards, is the most significant control on northern hemisphere climate outside the atmosphere. But the system has weakened by 15% since 1950, thanks to melting Greenland ice and ocean warming making sea water less dense and more buoyant.