25 January 2004

Global warming will plunge Britain into new ice age

Britain is likely to be plunged into an ice age within our lifetime by global warming, new research suggests.

A study, which is being taken seriously by top government scientists, has uncovered a change 'of remarkable amplitude' in the circulation of the waters of the North Atlantic.

Similar events in pre-history are known to have caused sudden 'flips' of the climate, bringing ice ages to northern Europe within a few decades. The development - described as 'the largest and most dramatic oceanic change ever measured in the era of modern instruments', by the US Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, which led the research - threatens to turn off the Gulf Stream, which keeps Europe's weather mild.

If that happens, Britain and northern Europe are expected to switch abruptly to the climate of Labrador - which is on the same latitude - bringing a nightmare scenario where farmland turns to tundra and winter temperatures drop below -20C. The much-heralded cold snap predicted for the coming week would seem balmy by comparison.

This follows from the Woods Hole report on the likely future of the Ocean Conveyor, a worldwide system of ocean currents. Global warming would not bring a uniform increase in temperature across the planet. The clearest global warming result is failure of the Ocean Conveyor. We know that has happened several times within the last 100 000 years. The immediate impact is a little ice age in Western Europe and North America.

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