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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Could Global Warming Cause A New Ice Age?

In the movie The Day After Tomorrow, there are many special effects including an ice event caused by global warming. Much of the science of the movie has been called into question. However, there may be some truth to the idea that global warming could cause an ice age.

The theory starts with an understanding of why Europe and Scandinavia are not colder already. After all, other places at the same latitude are covered with ice and permafrost. Alaska and Greenland are both as close to the North Pole as Europe. Yet, it is not global warming that keeps Europe warm.

The ocean currents called the Gulf Stream bring warm waters up to the UK and Europe from the Caribbean. These waters warm the countries around their path. This is what causes the UK, Europe, and Scandinavia to have such a nicer climate than, say, Alaska. Global warming has nothing to do with that.

An important factor about the Gulf Stream is that to keep the Great Conveyor Belt going, cool water must feed back into the loop and be brought back to the point in the Caribbean where the process began. This keeps the water moving.

Global warming is significant in that it could slow the Gulf Stream, or even stop it. If this were to happen, the cold waters would stay in the area of Europe, the UK, Scandinavia, and the Northeastern US. It could mean an ice age for those regions.

In every major cooling event, such as the last great Ice Age, the Gulf Stream has been significantly weakened. This can happen for different reasons. In current times, it can happen due to global warming brought on by human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels.

If the new Ice Age happens, it will likely be due to the melting of the polar ice. This will dump large quantities of cold, fresh water into the ocean. It would disrupt the Gulf Stream and cause the cooling of many areas that now have milder climates. Global warming will be the cause.

An ice age will probably not happen gradually, either. This is a phenomenon that takes place rather quickly. Perhaps it does not happen as fast as the ice event in The Day After Tomorrow. However, it could happen within a few short years with global warming being to blame.

The return flow of cold water from Greenland, which goes back to the Caribbean, has already showed a weakening in the last 50 years. There has been a 20% decline in the amount of current flowing in this direction. It only makes sense that the warm waters coming from the Caribbean have lessened too.

These currents are a part of the world-wide network of currents called the Global Thermohaline Circulation. This global warming could then cause a slowing or stoppage of the Gulf Stream affecting the entire earth.

The statistics are used to answer the question of whether an ice age could be caused by global warming. Observations have been made of current data and historical information gleaned by studying the ocean and the lands around it. With all the information at hand, it appears that it is indeed possible that global warming could lead to an Ice Age.

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