Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Global warming could lead to fast freeze, warns University of Ulster scientist


Dramatic climate change as a result of global warming could happen in a single lifetime – instead of being a slow process evolving over centuries, according to a University of Ulster academic.

Professor Marshall McCabe of the School of Environmental Sciences said that given the right set of circumstances, “a climate can flip in a lifetime”. And the result could be the return of Arctic conditions last seen in the British Isles thousands of years ago.

He said that the North Atlantic ocean, which controls our climate, is very sensitive to change.

For example, a substantial intrusion of fresh water into the North Atlantic from melting ice-caps may trigger rapid changes that could put the UK and Ireland into the deep freeze for centuries.

Professor McCabe, who is Professor of Quaternary Science at the University of Ulster, has found evidence of just such an event 19,000 years ago.

At that time, several ice sheets in the northern hemisphere melted, adding a five metre ‘cap’ of fresh water to the North Atlantic ocean.

In normal circumstances the ocean overturns constantly. Heat is drawn off from water at the top of the ocean which then sinks and flows south beneath the equator. New, warmer water is drawn northwards.

It is this cycle that gives the British Isles their temperate climate, despite being on the same latitude as Alaska.

But after the icesheets melted into the north Atlantic 19,000 years ago, the fresh water ‘cap’ was lighter than the salt water, and remained on the surface. This suppressed the normal circulation of deep water flowing south beneath the equator – leading to the return of Arctic conditions to Ireland.

Professor McCabe’s research, published in the prestigious journal Science, showed:

There was a rapid rise in the sea level around 19,000 years ago at Kilkeel, Co Down, due to the collapse of ice sheets in the northern hemisphere.

He was able to accurately date this sea level rise by carbon-dating forams, pinhead-sized organisms found on the sea. His research involved testing around 20,000 forams per sample.

The fresh water ‘cap’ suppressed the circulation of warm surface water from the south to the north Atlantic oceans - leading to thousands of years of Arctic conditions in Ireland and Great Britain.

Professor McCabe said: “Heat is pulled from the tropics to the north. We are on roughly the same latitude as Alaska and if it were not for the circulation of water between the north and south Atlantic oceans we would be frozen.

“But that could happen if the climate was to flip, through increased freshwater in the North Atlantic - as happened 19,000 years ago”.

David Young | University of Ulster
Further information:

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Invasive Insects Cost the World Billions Per Year
04.10.2016 | University of Adelaide

nachricht Malaysia's unique freshwater mussels in danger
27.09.2016 | The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Enormous dome in central Andes driven by huge magma body beneath it

25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

First time-lapse footage of cell activity during limb regeneration

25.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Deep down fracking wells, microbial communities thrive

25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>