What is the Younger Dryas? It is a cold epoch during the last ice age, about 12 800 – 11 700 years ago. This period shows what can happen with climate change and melting glaciers. For example, it shows how changes in the Atlantic currents, which carry heat to the north, can contribute to much colder winters in Scandinavian countries.
The Gulf Stream and climate change
The North Atlantic Current is one of two branches of the Gulf Stream. It ensures that large amounts of heat get transported to northern Europe. This natural cycle is crucial for the mild climate of that region. With climate change, there is an increased amount of meltwater from melting glaciers entering the Atlantic. The water can affect the transport of heat to the north. The development could cause a significantly colder climate. More so, a consequence could also be more extreme weather in the summer. Such as heat waves and droughts. Scientists can suspect these outcomes by examining different periods of the past, like the Younger Dryas period.
For example, researchers believe that the Younger Dryas affected the climate in Scandinavia. They also suspect that there was a much warmer climate around the equator. Since the heat that was supposed to be transported by the Gulf Stream stayed there instead.
The importance of climate history today
According to Stockholm University, scientists can see a weakening of the Gulf Stream today. In other words, it does not move as much heat as before. This finding got published in the journal Nature Communication. As mentioned, the same weakening happened during the Younger Dryas period 12.000 years ago.
Finally, researchers believe that a weaker transport of warm seawater in the Gulf Stream also leads to increased high pressures. This increase could cause more extreme weather, such as heat waves across the north.
Source: Stockholm University