Global Warming

Ocean Currents Falter

The water in the Atlantic is constantly circulating in a complex pattern that influences weather on several continents. And climate scientists have been asking a crucial question: Whether this vast system, which includes the Gulf Stream, is slowing down because of climate change.

If it were to change significantly, the consequences could be dire, potentially including faster sea level rise along parts of the United States East Coast and Europe, stronger hurricanes barreling into the Southeastern United States, reduced rainfall across parts of Africa and changes in tropical monsoon systems.

Now, scientists have detected the early warning signs that this critical ocean system is at risk. Recent findings suggest the circulation system is gradually slowing down and may be approaching a tipping point at which it would abruptly transition to a much slower state.

Climate Perils

New studies find that Earth will suffer a growing number of devastating floods and deadly heat waves.

Chinese and U.K. scientists say that unless greenhouse gas emissions are significantly curbed, wet regions such as the tropics and areas with monsoons will not only get wetter, but they will also swing widely between wet and dry. More frequently stalled weather patterns will bring prolonged periods of heavy rain and their resulting flood disasters, such as those this summer in China and Western Europe. The stalled patterns will create more frequent “heat domes,” such as those triggering firestorms in western North America and southeastern Europe this summer.

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