By Lise Alves, Contributing Reporter
MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA – July 2019 was the hottest July recorded in recent history, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) melting even faster than predicted the ice sheets in Greenland. And the extremely hot weather registered this summer may directly affect the Gulf Stream that runs along the Florida coastline.
“This is not science fiction. It is the reality of climate change,” WMO secretary-general Petteri Taalas told journalists recently when talking about global weather conditions.
According to the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Centre, the loss of ice extent in the Arctic in the first half of July matched rates from 2012, the year with the lowest sea ice extent in the satellite record. Ice loss effects the rate of sea level rise.
“The rate of global sea level rise […] is really completely dependent now on the loss from the Greenland ice sheet, that’s going to be going up quite rapidly,” said Peter Wadhams, professor of ocean physics and head of the Polar Ocean Physics Group at the University of Cambridge at a conference last week on the south-west edge of Greenland.
The melting ice from Greenland, in turn, effects the currents all along the Atlantic Ocean, especially the Gulf Stream which reaches all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.
“If you slow down the sinking of water in the North Atlantic, that means you have a pileup of waters along the eastern seaboard of the United States and the Gulf of Mexico,” Brenda Ekwurzel, director of climate science for environment group, Union of Concerned Scientists, was quoted as saying by the Miami Herald.
A weaker Gulf Stream could lead to higher sea levels along the Florida coast. Recent studies show that sea level rise worldwide is currently at a rate of about one inch every eight years. This rate however is expected to increase with a few forecasts showing that sea level rise will rise twenty-four inches within the next thirty years. Scientists also agree that currents along the South-Eastern U.S. play an important role in sea level rise in the Florida region.
“That means that you have increased regional sea level rise just from that ocean circulation change. So that’s not good for New York City, Norfolk (Virginia) or along Florida,” adds Ekwurzel.
Ben Kirtman, professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science agrees.
“The Gulf Stream really affects sea level here,” said Kirtman in a special report issued by the University of Miami about the complex climate. Kirtman, an expert in short- and mid-term has developed the highest-resolution, global ocean-and-atmosphere simulation of the Gulf Stream.
“If the Gulf Stream is really strong, it suppresses sea level. If the Gulf Stream weakens, sea levels rise. A lot of models seem to show, when you look thirty years out, that the Gulf Stream is going to weaken because of climate change,” adds the professor.
With a slower Gulf Stream circulation system, say scientists, Floridians may have to get used to higher sea levels, ‘hotter’ winters and a milder hurricane season every year.