The potential end of the Gulf Stream in the coming decades would mean a “massive change in the climate” of Ireland, a leading scientist has warned.
Ireland currently has a mild and wet climate due to the Gulf Stream, which brings warm waters up through the Atlantic to western Europe.
A report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded the stream has weakened since 2004 and could collapse because so much ice in Greenland is melting due to climate change.
“Just to compare, Ireland is situated on the Atlantic on more or less [the same latitude] as northern Canada and Alaska is situated on the Pacific,” the report’s author Professor Peter Ditlevsen told The Hard Shoulder.
“But the Pacific does not have that circulation [of warm water]... So, you could be looking into a climate that would be like the climate of northern Canada and the west coast of the US.”
The report found the Gulf Stream could collapse as early as 2025 but Professor Ditlevsen thinks it is more likely to happen in the coming decades.
“When you make a finding like this and there are uncertainties, you put on very wide bets,” he said.
“So, I would rather speak of this being likely to happen in 20 to 30 odd years.
“That’s also pretty soon if we’re talking about a massive change in the climate.”
Professor Ditlevsen said the earth is at a “tipping point” and this is just one symptom of climate change.
“Maybe an analogy is to look at your body temperature,” he said.
“Your body temperature is 37 degrees Celsius; if it’s a hot day, you sweat and you cool down.
“If it’s a cold day outside, you go outside and you burn more calories to keep you warm.
“If the system is weakened, you get sick or you get a fever or you cool down.
“Then you start not being able to keep that constant temperature and that’s the same with the circulation here.
“If these feedbacks are weakened enough, you are not capable of keeping this in place and this is the sign of a tipping point.”
Other scientists believe climate change will create a Mediterranean-style climate in the years ahead.
Main image: Glacier in Canada. Picture by: Alamy.com