Akash Panda is a blogger, entrepreneur, and writer. He is also a professional content writer who writes content for social media sites.
We got rid of all the sharks this year. That's because I have something much scarier: an index card with the words "The ocean is getting less salty." Why are there no screams? Is not that scary enough? What if I told you that tens of thousands of people in Europe could be murdered as a result? What if I told you it had the potential to kill tens of thousands of people in Western Europe? You see, it's frightening, and it has everything to do with the Gulf Stream, everybody's favorite stream.
Now, before you start googling the Gulf Stream dissolving to wow your newest Tinder date, let me explain what the Gulf Stream is. It's a huge ocean current, one of several continuous streams of seawater that keep our seas flowing and linked, similar to our great American railway system, but quicker, more dependable, and with less dead fish.
The Gulf Stream, in particular, is a stream that runs from the tip of Florida to the UK and Northern Europe, splitting up along the way. The Gulf Stream titillates in the same way that Al Gore titillates since it has a huge influence on how our climate operates. The Gulf Stream moves ocean water at a crazy pace of between 30 and 150 sverdrups—a that's flow unit based on how quickly oceanographer Harald Sverdrup could gulp ocean water, which was reportedly one million cubic meters per second, according to my understanding.
To put this in context, the aggregate force of all the rivers that flow into the Atlantic Ocean is just around 0.6 sverdrups. However, because this massive swath of water originates near the equator, it contains some of the hottest water in the Atlantic.
The northward migration of all that warm water—and so warm air—accounts for around 20% of all heat on Earth, and it plays a significant part in Europe's not-totally-frozen climate. That's why you constantly hear "Warm, innit?" and "I see that the unfeeling ocean currents have continued to save us from endless winter, um... buddy" in a British small conversation about the weather.
But there's a catch: that could not be the case for long. The Gulf Stream, you know, is weaker than it has been in over 1,600 years, and fresh studies from earlier this year suggested that it might be on the verge of collapsing completely. So, what's going on here? The simple explanation is climate change—or, if you don't believe in climate change, God is punishing you for your refusal to believe in climate change. However, the long answer necessitates a brief explanation of why the Gulf Stream occurs at all.
It’s caused by two main forces.
The first is wind: the Northeast Trade winds to the South and the Westerlies to the North—which, when you say it out loud, is kind of a headache—work in tandem to create a gyre in the Atlantic ocean that circulates water clockwise.
The other force, however—and this is the part of the video where you should start paying
attention—has to do with salinity.
The warm water cools and evaporates as the Gulf Stream crosses the Atlantic, making the water saltier and hence denser. This thick, salty water is more likely to sink to the ocean's bottom. You can try it at home by putting a little table salt on a lead weight and dropping it into your toilet—it should sink to the bottom on its own. When the Gulf Stream reaches the North Atlantic, it descends to the bottom and becomes entangled in deep water currents that loop it back Southward, creating a continual force that pulls the Gulf Stream in circles like a conveyor belt. But now that conveyor belt is encountering a problem: to put it simply, a few stock picture company people dug out too much dinosaur ooze from the earth, and Greenland is melting into the sea.
Because these ice caps are formed of freshwater rather than saltwater, the runoff is diluting the North Atlantic as a whole, making it less salty and thick. The Gulf Stream conveyor belt has been significantly slowed, and it may soon come to a halt.
That begs a couple of questions: when will it happen? What exactly is it going to do? Is it so that I'm going to die? Is it a smart idea to make this into a Dennis Quaid-led environmental thriller? Is Dennis Quaid on his way out? These are all excellent questions, but only the latter two have solid answers, both of which are negative.
It's a bit of a toss-up with the first three. Climate scientists believe the Gulf Stream could collapse in as little as a decade, but it could take several hundred years for the current to come to a complete stop. The consequences would be impossible to anticipate and much debated, but here are some theories: With severe winters and much harsher weather, Europe would likely become much colder—down to 10° C or 18° F. Droughts would undoubtedly worsen in India, West Africa, and most of South America if monsoon patterns were disrupted, and agriculture in those areas would suffer greatly.
Flooding and severe hurricanes are anticipated to occur along the East Coast of North America as a result of the building of water masses. In other words, things may become a lot worse. But, if you're wondering whether or not you'll die, the good news is that death is unavoidable in any case. What, on the other hand, is escapable? Bad behaviors that waste time.
© 2022 Akash Panda