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Atlantic Ocean Currents Slowing Down Due To Climate Change

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The average global temperature has gone up over the last century due to the phenomenon known as global warming. But one region in the north Atlantic has...

The average global temperature has gone up over the last century due to the phenomenon known as global warming. But one region in the north Atlantic has seen the opposite trend. A Roger Williams University researcher explains this anomaly in a recent paper published in Nature Climate Change.

(A video by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration of the what's known as the Great Ocean Conveyer Belt, or the Thermohaline Circulation.)

Temperatures are cooling down in the north Atlantic because of a slowdown in ocean currents, which drive weather patterns. That’s the finding of a research team including Scott Rutherford of Roger Williams University. Rutherford said the changes are linked to climate change. A contributor to this slowdown is the melting of the Greenland ice sheet. He said there may also be a link to the recent cold winter in the Northeast.

“That's a maybe [to the question], ‘Are these cold winters and what we are seeing in the slowdown linked?’ Because we do see the temperature pattern of the slowdown reappear this past winter, and we haven't seen it in several winters before that,” said Rutherford. 

Rutherford said the kinds of extreme weather events that we view now as very unusual may become usual in the future.

Rutherford said the melting of the Greenland ice sheet is also diluting the Gulf Stream, a salty warm current in the Atlantic Ocean that originates in the Gulf of Mexico. He is calling for more research into the impact this slowdown will have to ecosystems and sea levels. 

He said this kind of ocean circulation slowdown is unprecedented in the past one thousand years. 

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Atlantic Ocean Currents Slowing Down Due To Climate Change
Atlantic Ocean Currents Slowing Down Due To Climate Change