Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Collapse of the Gulf Stream System


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Gulf Stream System

Mains level: Not Much

gulf stream

Central Idea

  • Recent research warns that the Gulf Stream System, known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), faces a critical threat of collapse due to unabated global carbon emissions.
  • If left unchecked, this collapse could occur between 2025 and 2095, with a central estimate of 2050.

What is Gulf Stream System?

Origin Begins in the Gulf of Mexico, merging warm waters from the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico.
Flow Flows northward along the eastern coast of the United States.
Current Carries warm waters from the tropics towards higher latitudes.
Speed and Volume Swift ocean currents with speeds of 2 to 5 miles per hour, transporting 30 million cubic meters per second.
Function Redistributes heat towards the North Atlantic region, influencing climate and weather patterns.
Climate Impact Moderates the climate of Western Europe, keeping it relatively warmer than other regions at similar latitudes.
Interaction with Atmosphere Releases heat and moisture, influencing weather and precipitation.
Importance for Marine Life Supports diverse marine life, serving as a migratory route for fish and marine mammals.

Gulf Stream’s Vulnerability

  • Gulf Stream, currently at its feeblest point in 1,600 years, is grappling with the consequences of global heating.
  • Alarming signals of a tipping point were already observed back in 2021.
  • Past collapses during ice ages have triggered rapid temperature shifts of up to 10 degrees Celsius in just a few decades, underlining the immense climatic impact it holds.

Implications of Collapse

The potential collapse of Gulf Stream could lead to dire consequences worldwide, including:

  • Disrupted Rainfall Patterns: Billions of people in regions like India, South America, and West Africa, reliant on these patterns for food production, would face food insecurity.
  • Intensified Storms and Colder Temperatures: Europe would experience increased storm activity and colder temperatures.
  • Rising Sea Levels: The eastern coast of North America would be at risk of rising sea levels, posing threats to coastal communities.
  • Endangered Ecosystems: The Amazon rainforest and Antarctic ice sheets could face severe endangerment.

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