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Gulf Stream slowdown to moderate warming in Europe

"Cooling is probably a good bit more harmful than warming," said economist Richard Tol.

By Brooks Hays
Gulf Stream slowdown to moderate warming in Europe
The global system of ocean currents known as Thermohaline Circulation is slowing down. Photo by Jamilia Marini/Shutterstock

FALMER, England, July 11 (UPI) -- New research confirms the likelihood of a Gulf Stream slowdown in the North Atlantic. Scientists suggest the phenomenon will spare Europe from the worst of global warming.

Thermohaline Circulation is a massive ocean current system that carries warm water from the tropics north toward Europe. As water evaporates in the North Atlantic its salinity and density increase, and it sinks, cools and is carried south again.

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The global conveyor belt includes wind-driven warm water surface currents like the Gulf Stream and North Atlantic Drift -- currents that moderate temperatures along the East Coast of the United States and Europe's west coast.

Scientists have long predicted the Thermohaline Circulation would slow as global warming encouraged precipitation and polar melting, flooding the world's oceans with cold freshwater.

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Some researchers have speculated that a slowdown could precipitate an ice age in Europe.

New modeling by a team of researchers from the University of Sussex, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México and the University of California, Berkeley, show that's not the case.

The slowdown won't reverse global warming and plunge Europe into another ice age. Instead, it is expected to slow the rate of warming in the region. While the rest of the world warms more quickly, Europe will warm at a moderated pace.

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That's good news for the continent's GDP, researchers say.

A little bit of warming would likely raise the living standards in Europe, economists suggest.

"Cooling is probably a good bit more harmful than warming, particularly in Europe. People rightly fear that climate change would cause a new ice age," Richard Tol, an economist at the University of Sussex, said in a news release. "Fortunately, our study finds no cooling at all. Instead, we find slower warming: a boon for Europeans."

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The new research was published in the journal the American Economic Review.

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