Ocean Current Switch Due to Warming Could Be Slower Than Feared

Article excerpt

CHICAGO, July 16, 2009 (AFP) - The nightmare global warming scenario which provided the plot for a Hollywood blockbuster -- the Atlantic Ocean current that keeps Europe warm shuts down and triggers rapid climate change -- has long worried scientists. But a study published Thursday in the journal Science found it may not occur as quickly as previously feared.There is evidence that this current has shut down with some regularity in the past -- and sometimes quite rapidly -- in response to large influxes of fresh water from melting glaciers.However, it appears as though the current rate of glacial melt is occurring at a more gradual pace which will "give ecosystems more time to adjust to new conditions," said study co-author Peter Clark, a professor of geosciences at Oregon State University."Our data still show that current is slowing, and may decline by 30 percent by the end of this century," Clark said."That's very significant, and it could cause substantial climate change. But it's not as abrupt as some concerns that it could shut down within a few decades."Clark and his colleagues constructed a massive computer model which simulated the atmospheric and oceanic conditions of the height of the last ice age and the changes which resulted in the Earth's last major global warming some 14,500 years ago.The simulation presented results that are in line with the fossil and geological record and confirms the accuracy of some models of future climate change scenarios. …