from: Asher Minns <A.MinnsatXYZxyz.ac.uk>
subject: unhelpful NERC press release: Rapid Climate Change
An unhelpful press release from NERC today, in terms of public perceptions. It
jumps on the impending ice-age bandwagon - no mention of timeframes or
anything like that. An okay press release, but bad science communication.
British scientists set sail today from Glasgow to begin work aimed at
discovering if Britain is indeed in danger of entering the next ice age.
Scientists on the Royal Research Ship Discovery are on their way to deploy
oceanographic instruments across the Atlantic Ocean from the Canary Islands to
the Bahamas. The instruments will spend the next four years measuring the
temperature, salinity and speed of currents.
The work is part of a research programme called Rapid Climate Change, funded
by the UK�s Natural Environment Research Council and the USA�s National
Science Foundation. This measurement ptogramme across the Atlantic is being
carried out by scientists from Southampton Oceanography Centre (SOC) and the
University of Miami.
Dr Stuart Cunningham, of SOC, explained, �These specially developed
instruments will be attached to wires up to 5000m metres long. The wires are
anchored to the seabed and buoys at the top hold them straight just under the
surface. Some instruments will motor up and down the wires every two days,
taking measurements, for the next four years.
�We�re taking measurements at 22 moorings on the continental slope off Africa,
either side of the mid Atlantic ridge, and on the continental slope of the
The measurements will help discover what, if anything, is going on with
currents circulating in the Atlantic that act as Europe�s central heating
system. Warm surface water is driven by the wind from the Gulf of Mexico north
towards Europe. It moves fast, transporting heat equivalent to the power
generated by one million nuclear power stations. The warm surface water gives
its heat off to the atmosphere, which in turn keeps Europe about 5-10�C warmer
than it would otherwise be. In the seas around the Arctic it cools and sinks
and returns south � the Atlantic overturning circulation.
Stuart said, �We know that in the past disruptions to this system of currents
have coincided with rapid transitions in and out of ice ages.
�Now as the climate warms more ice is melting at the North Pole. This extra
cold fresh water could halt the overturningcirculation, stopping all this
extra heat reaching Northern Europe. There is speculation that this could
quickly plunge us into a mini ice age.
�This pilot scheme will monitor variations in the circulation. It might show
the circulation is slowing down. It might be speeding up. We don�t know.�
>===== Original Message From "Catharine Stott" <castatXYZxyzc.ac.uk> =====
Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research
Tel: 07880 547843 / 01603 593906
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