North Atlantic May Have Sudden And Rapid Climate Shifts

Admin | Published 2017-02-27 09:09
A new scientific analysis suggests that some parts of northwest Europe may have cooler climate than many other regions on the same latitude. Climatologists who have looked again at the possibility of major climate change in and around the Atlantic Ocean, a persistent puzzle to researchers, now say there is an almost 50% chance that a key area of the North Atlantic could cool suddenly and rapidly, within the space of a decade, before the end of this century.

Study examines climate shifts in North Atlantic using a unique algorithm (c) phys.org

Researchers from the Environnements et Paléoenvironnements Océaniques et Continentaux laboratory (CNRS/University of Bordeaux, France), and the University of Southampton developed an algorithm to analyze the 40 climate models considered by the Fifth Assessment Report to evaluate the risk of extreme climate change. The findings, published in the Nature Communications journal, put the probability of rapid North Atlantic cooling during this century at almost an even chance, nearly 50%. The algorithm developed by the Anglo-French researchers was able to detect quick sea surface temperature variations. With it, they found that seven of the 40 climate models they were studying predicted a total shutdown of convection, leading to an abrupt cooling of the Labrador Sea by 2C to 3C over less than 10 years. This in turn would drastically lower North Atlantic coastal temperatures. But because only a handful of the models supported this projection, the researchers focused on the critical parameter triggering winter convection: ocean stratification. Five of the models that included stratification predicted a rapid drop in North Atlantic temperatures. The researchers say these projections can one day be tested against real data from the international OSnap project, whose teams will be anchoring scientific instruments within the sub-polar gyre (a gyre is any large system of circulating ocean currents). If the predictions are borne out and the North Atlantic waters do cool rapidly over the coming years, the team says, with considerable understatement, climate change adaptation policies for regions bordering the North Atlantic will have to take account of this phenomenon.  
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