According to new research by scientists in Canada, the United Kingdom, Norway, and the United States, retreating sea ice in the Iceland and Greenland seas will lead to colder weather in Europe. Warm weather in Western Europe is dependent upon a cold North Atlantic, which helps to perpetuate the Gulf Stream that helps keep Europe mild.


The Atlantic Meriodional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) is responsible for this process, as it moves cold water south, and forces warm water north, producing the Gulf Stream. As that warmer water moves north, it loses heat and moisture into the atmosphere, which helps maintain Western Europe’s mild temperatures.

However, as global sea temperatures rise due to climate change, the water in the North Atlantic is warmer than is used to be, which makes the Gulf Stream weaker, a problem that will only get worse as climate change continues. As the water temperatures rise, less cold water will be forced south, and less warm water will be forced north.

The study, headed by professor G.W.K. Moore of the University of Toronto Mississauga, was published in Nature Climate Change on June 29th. It is the first such study to chart the air-sea heat exchange in the North Atlantic; most studies of the region have focused on the salinity of the northern seas, and the affect that has on ocean circulation.

Colder weather in Western Europe over all, not just during winter, could have a profound impact on humans living there, as well as other animals and plants. Changes in weather patterns can affect crops as well as trees, wild flowers, and the animals and insects that help to pollinate those plants.

This study comes after several others published this year have also shown that the AMOC is slowing due to climate change. Rising ocean temperatures are also an ecological concern, and affect the lives and regions of numerous aquatic species.