Will global warming make us all warmer? Don’t count on it!

September 3, 2013 11:21 am Published by Leave your thoughts

Global climate change has become the hot issue of late. I’ve covered several topics related to climate change and global warming in recent blogs. The reason for doing so is that my latest novel, White Thaw: The Helheim Conspiracy, centers on a dastardly plan by resurgent Nazis to wreak environmental havoc on the planet–for their own diabolical purposes.

In this blog I’d like to explore the scientific scenario I present in my book. Without giving away the plot or how they intend to do their heinous deed, the bad guys in White Thaw plan to break loose Greenland’s Helheim Glacier (and other glaciers up the coast) into the Northern Atlantic. Although their scheme to pull this off is incredible, it makes for an interesting story line. But beyond the incredible part of my story (breaking the ice free), the real consequence of Greenland’s melting ice as the result of global warming is a concern among scientists.

Before we consider why the melting of Greenland’s ice may have dire ramifications, let’s remind ourselves of some climatic benefits of western Europe. Many of us are unaware that much of Europe and Scandinavia is at the same latitude as Alaska. For example, Anchorage, Alaska (61N), Juneau, Alaska (58N), Aberdeen, Scotland (57N), and Stockholm, Sweden (59N) are within three degrees latitude of each other. But if we look at average temperatures in January, we see that Aberdeen and Stockholm, with average temperatures of 2.5 (36.5F) and -2.5C (27.5F), respectively, are significantly warmer than Juneau and Anchorage at -4.3 (24.3F) and -9.5C (14.9F).

Based on latitude alone, why don’t Aberdeen and Stockholm have the colder weather typical of our nation’s 49th state?  The reason is the Gulf Stream, part of nature’s conveyor belt, which transports warm water from the Tropics to the North Atlantic. As it travels northward, the Gulf Stream releases its heat, providing welcome warmth to western Europe. But as this warm water evaporates, it cools and has a higher salt content, making it denser than the water beneath. It sinks, and scientists believe that there is a counter current deep within the ocean that slowly returns that water back to the tropics.

So what might change western Europe’s climate?  Here is what scientists speculate could happen. Imagine that global warming begins to release the fresh water contained in the Greenland ice. (And by the way, there is a lot of water there to melt! It’s been estimated that if all of Greenland’s ice were to melt, sea levels would rise more than seven meters.) As the initial ice melts, it would flood the North Atlantic. And because fresh water is less dense than sea water, it would remain on the surface of the ocean.

So here’s the $64,000 question!  Would this fresh water be sufficient to disrupt the Gulf Stream current to a point where nature’s conveyor belt grinds to a halt? No one knows for sure. But that’s an important question, because if it does, western Europe will be the loser. And so you can see that global warming doesn’t necessarily mean warmer temperatures for everyone. The physical processes that Mother Nature uses to control our planet are complex. What happens in one part of Planet Earth can have unexpected results in another.

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This post was written by paulmarktag01

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