Another Doomsday Climate Prediction Gets Postponed …Effect On Gulf Stream “Smaller Than Expected”

Germany’s Geomar Research Center recently published a press release (see below) concerning the latest on the Gulf Stream. Hat-tip: DkS.

Some leading scientists have claimed that melting Greenland glaciers due to “man-made global warming” will lead to a disruption of the Gulf Stream and cause the North Atlantic region’s climate to change dramatically. However, the latest computer simulations show this scenario may be delayed.

Breathing space for the Gulf Stream

Scientists calculate the fate of the Greenland meltwater

20 June 2016/Kiel. The salinity of the waters around Greenland plays an important role in driving the Gulf Stream. There are concerns that a progressive freshening by the increasing ice losses from the Greenland ice sheet could influence and weaken the current system.

New model calculations conducted by an international research team suggest, however, that a large fraction of this meltwater is effectively removed from the most sensitive areas by swift, narrow boundary currents, delaying the influence on the Gulf Stream. The study is published today in the international journal Nature Geoscience.

Greenland’s glaciers are melting. Recent work by researchers at the University of Bristol found a 50% increase in the freshwater flux since 1990. Due to both enhanced summer melt and calving of outlet glaciers more than 5000 cubic kilometers of extra meltwater have been flowing into the sea, equivalent to a quarter of the volume of the Baltic Sea. The fate of this freshwater is of great importance for the system of ocean currents in the North Atlantic, which is governed by the density of the waters surrounding Greenland. A reduction in the water density especially in the Labrador Sea due an increased influx of freshwater could ultimately lead to a weakening of the current system, including the Gulf Stream.

Using a newly developed computer model, an international team of scientists led by the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel has now simulated in detail the pathways and effects of the additional meltwater. “The effects of the melting Greenland glaciers initially remain smaller than expected, since a large part of the meltwater is effectively flushed out by fast, narrow currents along the coastline of North America. Thus changes in the critical, northern seas are delayed”, explains GEOMAR researcher Prof. Claus Böning, lead author of the study.

The computer model takes into account the regional differences in meltwater discharge trends and very fine details of the ocean currents. This fine detail allowed the researchers to assess more accurately the influences of the narrow boundary currents and small-scale eddies on the water exchange between the coastal shelf and the deep ocean.

The model calculations showed that more than half of the meltwater is transported southwards along the Canadian coast by the Labrador Current. Less than 20 percent remain in the area between Greenland and Labrador which is critical for the Gulf Stream system. The model suggests that the melting-induced impact on ocean salinity is, to date, only half as large as natural variations measured in the past decades.

However, the simulation also shows a progressive trend in the freshening of the Labrador Sea. “If we project the rise in Greenland melting rates into the future, we expect first noticeable changes in the Labrador Sea in two or three decades”, emphasizes Professor Böning, “in this sense the Gulf Stream may just get some breathing space”. “Meltwater fluxes from Greenland have been accelerating in recent years and if, as seems likely, this trend continues we could see changes in ocean circulation even sooner” explains co-author Jonathan Bamber, Professor at the University of Bristol.

Böning, C. W., E. Behrens, A. Biastoch, K. Getzlaff, J. L.. Bamber (2016): Emerging impact of Greenland meltwater on deepwater formation in the North Atlantic Ocean. Nature Geoscience,

Background information:
The model computations were performed at the North-German Supercomputing Alliance (HLRN). The study was supported by the cooperative programme RACE (Regional Atlantic Circulation and Global Change, BMBF grant 03F0651B) and the Cluster of Excellence “The Future Ocean” funded by the DFG.


10 responses to “Another Doomsday Climate Prediction Gets Postponed …Effect On Gulf Stream “Smaller Than Expected””

  1. yonason

    Richard Lindzen used actual physics to show the stupidity of that idea.

    But here we are, nearly a decade later, and there are still proponents of stupid ideas. I guess part of the problem is that if there are an abundance of people who, if you pay their salaries, they’ll try to sell whatever crap you have for them to sell, no matter how bad it is.

  2. Curious George

    How do we know that “the latest computer simulations” are any good? The previous latest computer simulations were no good for sure.

    Do these guys estimate the accuracy of their models? Apparently not; I tried to get an estimate, got a silence.

  3. Boyfromtottenham

    Hi from Oz. The unqualified statement in the abstract “greenland’s glaciers are melting” is the give-away. Totally unscientific. I stopped reading when I saw this. The peer reviewers should have too. Is there no scientific integrity in climate science?

  4. Tony Porter

    They’ll say anything even if it’s a total lie, to propagate more fear and maintain the hysteria. Doesn’t matter if whatever they say to support their false narrative of doom and gloom is based upon a plot more childish than a fairy tale.
    They’re lunatics – all of them, but unfortunately there’s a much larger contingent of lunatics who delight in listening to and believing their nonsense. Maybe they’re hooked on the adrenaline rush produced by their daily boosts of fear they feel with each new story, so can’t wait for their next episode in the continuing AGW saga from the junk-science Jeremiahs…

  5. John F. Hultquist

    … may be delayed.

    If it happens in the future, one might then claim it was delayed.
    At this point they should say that it isn’t happening. It may never happen.

    In “two or three decades” I’ll be gone.
    Likely the Gulf Stream will still be around.

    1. Mindert Eiting

      Likely, our sun will become in a few billion of years a red hot monster, swallowing at least four of its closest planets. In that case the Gulf Stream will evaporate. Delay and pause are propaganda terms. You still have a few decades to invest money in a swindle company, and being totally bankrupt on your death bed, they will say that the promised gains were delayed. You had the bad luck of living the last part of your life in a pause of skyrocketing profits.

  6. dennisambler

    A letter on the subject from Carl Wunsch, Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology” in “Nature” 428, 601, April 8, 2004):

    “Gulf Stream safe if wind blows and Earth turns”
    “Sir – Your News story “Gulf Stream probed for early warnings of system failure” (Nature 427, 769 (2004)) discusses what the climate in the south of England would be like “without the Gulf Stream.” Sadly, this phrase has been seen far too often, usually in newspapers concerned with the unlikely possibility of a new ice age in Britain triggered by the loss of the Gulf Stream.

    European readers should be reassured that the Gulf Stream’s existence is a consequence of the large-scale wind system over the North Atlantic Ocean, and of the nature of fluid motion on a rotating planet. The only way to produce an ocean circulation without a Gulf Stream is either to turn off the wind system, or to stop the Earth’s rotation, or both.

    Real questions exist about conceivable changes in the ocean circulation and its climate consequences. However, such discussions are not helped by hyperbole and alarmism. The occurrence of a climate state without the Gulf Stream anytime soon – within tens of millions of years – has a probability of little more than zero.”


    “The Source of Europe’s Mild Climate” Original at Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, 128(586): 2563-2586), 2002. Richard Seager et al

    Richard Seager is a senior research scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory:

    The notion that the Gulf Stream is responsible for keeping Europe anomalously warm turns out to be a myth.
    “That the Gulf Stream is responsible for Europe’s mild winters is widely known and accepted, but, as I will show, it is nothing more than the earth-science equivalent of an urban legend.

    Countless magazine and newspaper stories have asserted that the flow of warm water from the Gulf of Mexico north and east across the Atlantic accounts for why winters in, say, London, are so much more pleasant than those in Labrador, which lies at the same latitude. Despite what seem to be supporting statements from many oceanographers, it turns out that this description is highly misleading.

    In fact, England and France enjoy milder winters than eastern Canada in large part because prevailing winds at these latitudes blow from west to east over the comparatively warm ocean, thus allowing much of Europe to have a mild “maritime” climate. In addition, the Rocky Mountains cause a waviness in the general west-to-east flow that sends air somewhat south when it departs North America and then back north, (after picking up heat from lower latitudes) when it blows over Europe.”

    1. yonason

      Makes sense.

      And, if the Atlantic cools, then so does Europe?

      Good luck keeping warm with (un)renewable! …or as some say, unreliables. 😉

      1. yonason

        (P.S. – I’m not referring to the silly comment there about the gulf stream being affected by ice melt, though. Just the wind over the cold Atlantic)

  7. Week in review – science edition – Enjeux énergies et environnement

    […] Breathing space for the Gulf Stream [link] […]

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