The Gulf Stream and North Atlantic current, carrying warm waters towards higher latitudes. As and when it progresses, the water become cold while its density increases. This water sinks to the bottom of the Atlantic and then back down south. The existence of the Gulf Stream, the western winds and the heat exchange between water and the atmosphere play a key role on the European climate and North Atlantic in general. In addition, this current also limits the expansion of sea ice by bringing in more heat, and large quantities of salt. Changes in ocean currents of the North Atlantic may have consequences on our climate. They could be responsible for the development of hurricanes and heavy rains in the Sahel.
It would be useful to predict the intensity variations of these movements of water to anticipate long-term European climate in the coming years. Unfortunately, few successful models have been developed.
A team led by Daniela Matei and Jochem Marotzke of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology (MPI-M) has developed a model that predicts the behavior of the Gulf Stream in the north latitude of 26.5 ° up to four years in advance. These results were published in the Science Magazine.
Researchers have used a model that characterizes the movement of ocean currents in the North Atlantic (MPI-OM) with a model involving the flow of air currents (Echam5). The result has created a tool that can anticipate the behavior and strength of the Gulf Stream. In order to be valid, comparisons were made retroactively. The results obtained with both MPI-OM/Echam5 were confronted with actual measurements taken at sea between April 2004 and March 2009 (five years) in the framework of the Rapid-Mocha. The tool has proved very reliable.
The mood of the Gulf Stream finally predictable
The scientists decided to use their model to make predictions. Several simulations were launched ten years to four years interval (2008 to 2011) taking into account whenever new meteorological measurements made on the ground. The overall results showed that the Gulf Stream would be stable at least until 2014 despite all the current controversies about its possible slowdown.
The model predictions month by month. It can therefore be used to determine the risk of developing hurricanes. This interval also allows to study climate change could affect Europe with sufficient accuracy.
With the knowledge of ocean dynamics (not only by temperature measurements), researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology thus have developed a powerful tool for anticipating weather events that would affect us in the coming years.
For more read about this topic bits science