Watering Hole: Monday, January 9th, 2012 – The Coming Ice Age

There is an Atlantic chill coming to the east coast of the United States and to western Europe.  According to an article in the Sierra Club magazine, climate scientists are tacking

…a widening pool of freshwater in the Arctic Ocean that’s already more than twice the size of Africa’s Lake Victoria.  Fed by melting permafrost, shrinking glaciers, and Siberian downpours, the freshwater is expected to flush from the Arctic into the Atlantic.

When it gets there, it could slow or even stop the Gulf Stream, the great oceanic conveyor belt that brings tropical waters, and temperate weather, to northern latitudes. Normally, these waters—cooled by winds and made increasingly dense and salty by evaporation and ice formation—plunge below lighter, less-saline water near Greenland, powering the cycle.

But according to Laura de Steur of the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, 1,800 cubic miles of meltwater pooling in the Arctic could throw the brakes on that system, rapidly ratcheting down temperatures in a way that we haven’t experienced since the last ice age, 13,000 years ago.

The change in the Atlantic Ocean’s salinity will have a chilling effect on the east coast and in countries on the western side of Europe. The last time that the Gulf Stream slowed and moved further south, it took 1,300 years for it to pick up speed and move north.

This is our Open Thread.  Are you ready for the big chill?  What else do you want to discuss?  Speak Up!