How it affects life on the planet that the Gulf Stream registers its lowest speed in 1,000 years

How it affects life on the planet that the Gulf Stream registers its lowest speed in 1,000 years


The Gulf Stream, the system that circulates the waters of the Atlantic Ocean to the northern hemisphere, has become much slower over the last 150 years and is at its weakest point in a millennium.

According to a study published in the journal Nature, the flow has been reduced by 15% in a thousand years.

This current works as a conveyor belt that begins its journey in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, where its warm waters go to the north, becoming colder until reaching Western Europe.

There they meet the cold waters of seas like Barents and Greenland.

Thus, a cycle that generates warm water, less dense and more “light”traveling on the surface to the north and cold water, denser and more “heavy” travel in the deep south.

This constant flow forms the so-called South Atlantic Return Circulation (CAMR), which is essential to regulate the climate on the planet, because it redistributes heat and influences carbon cycles.

This animation by NASA shows how ocean currents circulate:

What scientists have discovered led by David Thornalley, of the University College of London, is that this cycle has slowed down , possibly because the ice of the Arctic and the melting Nordic seas are adding more fresh water to the cycle.

This water, as it has no salt, is less dense, so it does not go so easily to the bottom and does not circulate to the south.

The causes

When this happens, the system gets out of control and this could have effects such as cooling the waters of the North Atlantic, transforming some deep-sea ecosystems or affecting temperature-sensitive species , such as corals or cod.

Another effect could be that lower temperatures occurred in northwestern Europe.

A coral reef
Copyright of the GETTY imageImage caption The change in water temperature affects coral reefs.

“The changes we are seeing in the deep currents of the Atlantic could have great effects on ocean ecosystems ,” Murray Roberts, a marine biologist at the University of Edinburgh, told the BBC.

“The deep Atlantic contains some of the oldest and most spectacular coral reefs … these delicate ecosystems depend on ocean currents to obtain their food and disperse their offspring.”

Another study, also published this week by the journal Nature, shows similar results on the weakening of the WARC.

The studies, however, differ on the causes of the weakening .

The first states that it owes natural factors during the end of the “Little Ice Age” , around 1850.

Sea waves
Copyright of the GETTY imageImage caption Currents in the oceans help regulate the climate on the planet.

The second relates it more to climate change and places it more noticeably by 1950.

” It is likely that continued global warming continue further weakening l to WARC long term , ” says the second study, developed by the Institute for Climate Impact Research in Potsdam, Germany.

Beyond the differences, the scientists agree that it is necessary to continue studying how the WARC behaves to understand if the melting could cause a further deceleration of this system on which the balance on the planet depends.

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