12 January 2011, 16:58

Has the oil spill changed the Gulf Stream?

Has the oil spill changed the Gulf Stream?
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Has the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico affected the Gulf Stream? Climatic calamities in the past year and early this year show convincingly that something is going wrong with the Gulf Stream, which is described as “the kitchen for climate in Europe and North Atlantic”. Reports say that experts are divided to this end.

Has the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico affected the Gulf Stream? Climatic calamities in the past year and early this year show convincingly that something is going wrong with the Gulf Stream, which is described as “the kitchen for climate in Europe and North Atlantic”. Reports say that experts are divided to this end.

No less than 5 million barrels of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico during last year’s disaster. According to Professor Gianluigi Zangari of Italy, the oil spill and the spray of chemicals on it have put the Gulf Stream, which is closely linked to the Gulf, on the brink of a disaster. The physical properties of the stream have changed, and this might deal a severe blow to the entire ecosystem, says the scientist in his article published in the Moscow-based daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

Direct evidence from satellite data shows a drastic reduction of the chlorophyll concentration, by about 100 times, in the Gulf of Mexico, which may have a serious impact on the whole ecosystem and ocean circulation. Since a strong correlation within ocean dynamics and biology, the phytoplankton abundance, is well assessed, chlorophyll concentration reduction may have serious consequences for the circulation of the Gulf up to the Gulf Stream. The large-scale death of fish that has taken place in the Gulf in the past months has been caused by the chlorophyll reduction. According to Gianluigi Zangari, the current abnormal climate in Europe is a first sign of serious problems in ocean circulation.

Some other scientists in the West say that the current natural calamities in Europe are caused by the retardation of the Gulf Stream as a result of the oil spill. The stream reaches the continent cooled and consequently, it protects Europe less from the influence of the Arctic. Meanwhile, the American space agency, NASA insists that the Gulf Stream has become more powerful and warmer in the past ten years.

"Russian experts say that the ecological disaster caused by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, has no direct effect on the Gulf Stream. The abnormal climate in Europe is caused by solar activity," says Alexei Kokorin, the head of the Climate and Energy Programme of World Wildlife Fund for Nature, Russia.

“The anthropogenic influence on climate and growing greenhouse effect have not been studied in full, and consequently, it’s impossible to say that they are the cause for this abnormal situation. A growth in greenhouse gas effect and the relevant changes in air circulation increase the frequency and power of abnormal phenomena. We observe this in Europe this winter,” Alexei Kokorin said.

The significance of the Gulf Stream for Europe is invaluable. It brings up to 50 million cubic meters of warm water per second. This is 20 times more than the overall water that flows in all the rivers in the world. To guarantee a soft climate for Europe, it’s sufficient that little over 50 percent of this water reaches Europe. The rest is lost in many outflows of the stream.

Owing to the Gulf Stream, Europeans live in a comfortable climate. However, the European states have lost billions of Euros owing to natural calamities in the past six months. Experts are discussing whether the abnormal climate is linked to the changes in the Gulf Stream and whether these changes on their part are linked to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. As we see it’s too early to tell.

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