If you’re like me, on a day-to-day basis you feel you’re living at a fixed place of the Universe. You’re incognizant of the fact you’re moving about 1,000 miles per hour because of the rotation of Earth. The rotation of iron at our core causes electricity, hence magnetism. It’s as if Earth has a long magnet running through it. We have a magnetic North and South pole. I’ve blogged about the change in position of the North pole, recently moving East at tens of miles per year, indicating to geologists a flip of the North and South poles will happen soon. Of course “soon” is in ecological time so if you’re reading this, it is unlikely to be in your lifetime, but It is likely to upend—pun intended—human lives.
Now, it appears that there are big changes in another moving part of Earth, namely ocean currents. Again, apart from waves, we don’t think of water deep in the ocean as racing around the globe, but it does. There are many currents, which circulate in loops. The most well-known is the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic. It is responsible for European countries’ temperate weather compared to other countries at the same latitude. It travels in a roller coaster loop. Warm water moves north along the east side of the US. Its high salt content makes it denser, as well as its cooling in encountering colder water. As a result, the current dives lower.
Scientists have detected signs that the current’s speed is slowing down. The evidence is indirect as they have only been tracking the current’s speed since 2004. However, temperature, microbial organisms in the ocean floor, and many other measurements have been tracked longer and are consistent with considerable slowing of the current. At least part of the reason for the slowing is due to the melting of Arctic ice, which has little salt content and cools the current more rapidly forcing the current downward further south. If the current were to stop completely, we would enter an ice age as depicted in the movie, The Day After Tomorrow. It is ironic that global warming would be the cause of an ice age. Again, we won’t see it in our lifetimes, but in the short term the slowing is believed to increase the number and severity of hurricanes and storms.
I’m glad I’m old. It’s the only thing thatt keeps me going.