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The Gulf Stream May Become the Gulf Trickle

Be prepared to be swept away by one of the most fascinating - and valuable - geographical features of the Atlantic Ocean: the Gulf Stream. The Gulf Stream is an ocean current that brings warm water from the Gulf of Mexico northward along the eastern coast of the US towards the upper Atlantic Ocean near Europe. This stream of warm water is driven by oceanic gyres, systems of intense winds and currents in large bodies of water. The Gulf Stream affects the climate of nearby land masses by simultaneously heating the water and air, which is then brought overland through gusts of wind. For example, parts of Norway are about 22 degrees Celsius warmer than other regions of the world at the same latitude due to this phenomenon. Unfortunately, despite its importance in maintaining climate stability in the Atlantic region, the Gulf Stream seems to be weakening, and that may bring dire consequences.

The primary cause of the Gulf Stream’s weakening is climate change. The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), which is the Atlantic portion of a larger system of global currents that includes the Gulf Stream, is deteriorating. Normally, warm, tropical waters flow northward along the Gulf Stream toward the Arctic, where the water then cools and increases in salinity due to evaporation, becomes denser, and flows back southward in a process that is often referred to as a giant conveyor belt. However, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere traps more heat, melting glaciers to the north that cause an influx of freshwater to reduce the Gulf Stream’s salinity and density. This weakens the ability of colder water to sink and flow southward. Without the ability to move southward, the natural conveyor belt slows down and threatens to collapse the current altogether.

The potential collapse of the Gulf Stream risks further extreme and unpredictable results within our climate. For example, the weakening of the Gulf Stream may lead to cooler summer and winter temperatures and more powerful storms in the Northern Hemisphere, disrupting the rain cycles and temperatures that many people around the world rely on for crop production. The slowing of the current could also lead to less carbon sequestration, leaving too much carbon dioxide in the air and heating the atmosphere faster. Additionally, a weaker Gulf Stream disrupts the flow of nutrients to algae and plankton that form the basis of marine food webs in the Atlantic, damaging ecosystems and reducing biodiversity. The only feasible solution to preventing this crisis is to keep carbon emissions as low as possible. By doing so, not only will the Gulf Stream’s flow be preserved, but so too will our climate, ecosystems, and weather.


1) “The Gulf Stream continues to slow down, new data shows, with freshwater creating an imbalance in the current, pushing it closer to a Collapse point” Severe Weather Europe.

2) “What is the Gulf Stream?” SciJinks.

3) “Gulf Stream” Brittanica.

4) “A major Atlantic current is at a critical transition point” PBS.

5) “Gulf Stream System Weakening” Climate Signals.

6) “Gulf Stream could be veering toward irreversible collapse, a new analysis warns” LiveScience.

7) “Climate crisis: Scientists spot warning signs of Gulf Stream collapse” The Guardian.


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