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Why climate change could make some places colder

Why climate change could make some places colder

As much of the Northern Hemisphere continues to bake in a year of unprecedented heat waves linked to climate change, one paradoxical consequence of rising global temperatures is that some areas of the world could become much colder.

A study published this month by researchers at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research found that the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) current system could be on the verge of collapse. The conveyor belt system transports warm surface ocean water from the tropics, up along the coast of Florida to the northern Atlantic Ocean. Colder water sinks and is moved along the ocean floor to the south, helping to regulate the global climate.

“That’s one of the reasons that the climate in Europe is so pleasant,” Harold Wanless, professor of geography and urban sustainability at the University of Miami, told Yahoo News. “You go to the same latitude over in Newfoundland and Labrador, it’s pretty harsh in the winter.”

The system's collapse, which researchers have concluded is in part caused by the melting of Arctic ice, could result in the dramatic cooling of parts of Europe and North America. But the extreme cold in those locations would not be the only change. The current system is also responsible for the wind that propels storms that cross the Atlantic, which in turn helps regulate sea levels.

"The Gulf Stream flowing north from the tropics, if that slows down, that north-flowing current piles up water to the right side. Bimini [in the Bahamas], for instance, is about a meter higher [in terms of sea level] than in Miami because of the north-flowing current,” Wanless said. “If that slows down or stops, that will cause almost a meter of rise here.”

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