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2018 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #15

Posted on 14 April 2018 by John Hartz

A chronological listing of news articles posted on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week.

Editor's Pick

Avoid Gulf stream disruption at all costs, scientists warn

How close the world is to a catastrophic collapse of giant ocean currents is unknown, making halting global warming more critical than ever, scientists say

Greenland Ice Sheet 
Other research this week showed that Greenland’s massive ice cap is melting at the fastest rate for at least 450 years. Photograph: Nick Cobbing/Greenpeace 

Serious disruption to the Gulf Stream ocean currents that are crucial in controlling global climate must be avoided “at all costs”, senior scientists have warned. The alert follows the revelation this week that the system is at its weakest ever recorded.

Past collapses of the giant network have seen some of the most extreme impacts in climate history, with western Europe particularly vulnerable to a descent into freezing winters. A significantly weakened system is also likely to cause more severe storms in Europe, faster sea level rise on the east coast of the US and increasing drought in the Sahel in Africa.

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”. 

Avoid Gulf stream disruption at all costs, scientists warn by Damian Carrrington, Environment, Guardian, Apr 13, 2018 

Links posted on Facebook

Sun Apr 8, 2018

Mon Apr 9, 2018

Tue Apr 10, 2018

Wed Apr 11, 2018

Thu Apr 12, 2018

Fri Apr 13, 2018

Sat Apr 14, 2018

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Comments 1 to 4:

  1. The weakening of the Gulf stream / AMOC is a very concerning development. However some people probably won't be worried, because they simply can't seem to compute that small global temperature changes over time can have severe impacts like this that could reshape climate systems. You see evidence of this in blog commentary.

    Perhaps they see large swings of temperature seasonally or diurnally that don't cause problems, and reason form there. Remember Senator Inhofe dumping a snowball on the floor, and proclaiming "theres no global warming" in either an astonishing display of ignorance, or cynical and deliberate avoidance of the issue.

    One thing blocking awareness of the severity climate problem is therefore possibly psychological perception of this sort, as well as political ideologies, and vested interests. They probably mutually reinforce each other. I can't think of many other issues in society with so many things blocking understanding and action.

    Perhaps if humanity could just focus on a sustainable future and set of related values this would help.

    The gulf stream and AMOC is really part of the global thermohaline circulation system as follows.

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  2. This is a telling event and cool story, which seems to have drawn little attention in the media or community given all the competing events.  Anybody that has followed this story for the past decade will have an idea of the potential consequences of a slowdown in the AMOC, and they are significant. The prospects for world seems dismal at this point. I think we're at a low point with lots of competing events drawning our attention.

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  3. Is there a rate of change measurement at hand?

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  4. bozzza @3,

    The two studies that kicked-off this AMOC discussion are Caesar et al (2018) and Thornalley et al (2018). Neither are directly measuring the flow but use either SST data & modelling (there is an illustrative animation of their modelling in this RC post) or proxy paleo-data to infer the past strength of the AMOC. Caeser et al (2018) conclude the AMOC has weakened by around 3 Sv (Sv=milllion cu m/sec). The AMOC is measured today at 17 Sv, so that's a drop of 15%  since the mid-20th century. Thornalley et al also put it as approximately 15% but relative to the preceeding 1,500 years, with their proxy data showing a transition occuring by 1900, that is a big big wobble down that has remained down and not wobbled back up.

    Of course, such findings don't of themselves say a lot but require comparing firstly with what is expected of the AMOC under AGW (IPCC AR5 put it as 1-24% drop by 2100 under RCP2.6 and 12-54% under RCP8.6, all with the 'low confidence' sticker) and secondly what would be the resulting impact on global climate which is a bit of a big ask as it would all be wrapped up with other AGW impacts. As an example, while Hansen et al (2016) present a dramatic scenario with the AMOC switching off, this is the result of other major climatologial change.

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