Scientists Warn Northern Europe Could Become Uninhabitable In The Next Hundred Years

By: Bradley Hunsaker

This last winter brought record low temperatures and early freezes in much of northern Europe killing close to 80 people.  Even more people had to be evacuated, mostly airlifted, from their homes due to record snowfalls and temperatures falling below 25 degrees Fahrenheit, making the area unlivable.

Scientists have documented temperatures as the lowest in over 100 years and most are saying this is not the last of the brutal winters for that region.

“No, this is only the start,” said Jay Mace, a climate change professor at the University of Utah. “Unfortunately this pattern is what scientists have been predicting would happen for some time now and it is only going to get worse.”

The temperature shifts are occurring because of a change in the North Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation or AMOC, responsible for bringing warm air to parts of northern Europe that on the other side of the hemisphere are seen as uninhabitable.  The AMOC is a global current that is driven by the heat and water vapor exchanged to cold dry air masses from North America.  Cold, salty water tends to be denser than regular water, causing it to sink in the ocean.  The coldest and saltiest waters are formed in the North Atlantic where the current gets most of its drive.

The problem we are seeing, explains Jay, is that the glacier ice melting in the ocean from Greenland and the arctic is bringing in too much fresh water to the current, causing the flow that thrives on salt water to slowly shut down.  When the current shuts down, warm air can no longer be circulated to places like northern Europe.

If the current does shut down, most of northern Europe from Bulgaria to Denmark and especially places in the north like Russia and Sweden will become frozen over and too cold for any civilization to thrive.

Last time the world saw an event like this was when Lake Agassiz which used to be located in North America drained into the Atlantic dumping fresh water into the ocean.  This event shut down the current for two millennia causing a return to ice in the northern hemisphere causing most of what we see today in places like the Yukon in northern Canada.

Even though scientists have been studying events like this very little is known about the current and how to help it.  Most people are unaware of what is actually causing these global freezes and not much is being done to help it.

“I don’t know what is causing these hot and cold temperatures around the world,” said Liz Griggs, master’s student studying piano performance at the U. “I can say it is all about global warming but then I would just be saying what I have heard from the news.  I can’t really say one way or another what is causing this and how to help.”

Even those studying climate change and weather have very little knowledge exactly how the current works.

“It is concerning to have a natural event that we have no control over and we have very little understanding on what impact we really have on it and what we can do about it,” said Scott Elkins, who is pursuing an atmospheric science minor at the U.   “It is sad that we have to be aware of this event yet have little understanding what to do about it.”

Despite the lack of understanding of the current from the general public, Climatologists have been working hard to understand it and try and see what can be done to reverse the change before it becomes too late.

“Oh, there is no doubt about it,” said Jay, “If trends continue how they are and glacier waters keeps flowing into the AMOC, the current will shut down in a few hundred years and we will see an end to life in a lot of places until it can get started again.  And by the time that happens the world will have already undergone another major climate shift.”