Discover more from The Climate Brink
The oceans are changing because of climate change
Matt England tells me how
I had the opportunity to sit down and chat (virtually) with one of the leading minds in climate dynamics research, Professor Matt England. Matt has a deep passion for oceanography and atmospheric science and his work has illuminated our understanding of the oceans' role in climate variability and change. In our chat, we talk about his recent paper on how the circulation of the oceans is slowing.
Ocean circulation is important to the climate because the oceans move heat around the planet. The Gulf Stream, for example, plays a crucial role in moderating the climate of Western Europe by transporting vast amounts of heat from the tropics to the North Atlantic. It is largely responsible for the mild climate of Western Europe (compare London’s climate to Moscow’s and you’ll see what I mean).
When this circulation changes, big climate shifts can result. During the Younger Dryas period, roughly 12,000 years ago, a significant slowdown of the Gulf Stream resulted in a sharp decrease in heat reaching Europe, plunging the continent into a deep freeze akin to a mini ice-age (this mechanism was the basis of the movie, The Day After Tomorrow). This highlights the profound impact ocean currents have on global climate patterns.
Let’s listen to Matt talk about his new work:
The bottom line from Matt:
That’s one of the things with the oceans that’s really important to to think about. This absorption of heat and the way that it moderates the climate system, … It unfortunately lulls people into a false sense of security because things play out a bit slower because of the oceans.
But but there's huge payback to that down the track, the fact that they're absorbing heat and carbon comes with significant consequences, with thermal expansion, melting ice caps, intensifying tropical cyclones, damaging ecosystems like coral reefs, ocean acidification, I mean the list is very long, and it's quite confronting when you look at the global ocean temperatures as they're playing out. Great news that they're absorbing all this heat for us, but with big payback down the track.
Thanks for reading The Climate Brink! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support our work.