The once-again coming of the ice age

by Yule Heibel on February 5, 2004

Doug at The Alders pointed to this a few days ago, on Feb. 2: an article by Thom Hartmann that explains how the malfunction of the Great Conveyor Belt might be the new ice-cold tipping point for global cooling that no one can ignore:

…the warm water of the Great Conveyor Belt evaporates out of the North Atlantic leaving behind saltier waters, and the cold continental winds off the northern parts of North America cool the waters. Salty, cool waters settle to the bottom of the sea, most at a point a few hundred kilometers south of the southern tip of Greenland, producing a whirlpool of falling water that’s 5 to 10 miles across. While the whirlpool rarely breaks the surface, during certain times of year it does produce an indentation and current in the ocean that can tilt ships and be seen from space (and may be what we see on the maps of ancient mariners).

This falling column of cold, salt-laden water pours itself to the bottom of the Atlantic, where it forms an undersea river forty times larger than all the rivers on land combined, flowing south down to and around the southern tip of Africa, where it finally reaches the Pacific. Amazingly, the water is so deep and so dense (because of its cold and salinity) that it often doesn’t surface in the Pacific for as much as a thousand years after it first sank in the North Atlantic off the coast of Greenland.

The out-flowing undersea river of cold, salty water makes the level of the Atlantic slightly lower than that of the Pacific, drawing in a strong surface current of warm, fresher water from the Pacific to replace the outflow of the undersea river. This warmer, fresher water slides up through the South Atlantic, loops around North America where it’s known as the Gulf Stream, and ends up off the coast of Europe. By the time it arrives near Greenland, it has cooled off and evaporated enough water to become cold and salty and sink to the ocean floor, providing a continuous feed for that deep-sea river flowing to the Pacific.

These two flows – warm, fresher water in from the Pacific, which then grows salty and cools and sinks to form an exiting deep sea river – are known as the Great Conveyor Belt. [More….]

I actually remember hearing about this some years ago, but Hartmann’s article spells out new details, for example that the Eastern US & Canada and Europe will be hardest hit.

And now, dear reader, my one and only conspiracy theory, mainly to lighten the mood of this doomsday message: if I heard about it, so perhaps did the neo-cons, who have subsequently begun this take-over of Middle Eastern oilfields to ensure a continued supply of heating fuel, gargantuan amounts of which the Atlantic states will need to stay even moderately warm. Dr. Strangelove, forget the underground bunkers for the chosen few: we’re talking hell-hole size heaters.

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