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Introduction:

The purpose of this paper is to investigate whether global warming could affect the thermohaline circulation cycle (THC) significantly enough that it could even shut it down and thus cause a shift in the climate of Europe severe enough to cause another Little Ice Age. To answer the question about whether global warming could cause another ice age, I have divided this paper into segments. The first will explain what the thermohaline circulation cycle is. Next, I will look at the last interglacial period and observe what the conditions were like especially in respect to the THC. I will look at how the last interglacial led to the last great Ice Age, and the sudden demise of that Ice Age, as well as the nearly equally sudden cooling that occurred in the Younger Dryas about 12,000 years ago before the warming resumed in earnest shortly thereafter. In the final part of this paper I will look at two different predictions of what could happen as a result of the melting of the North Atlantic region's ice sheets with respect to the THC and how it could affect the regional climate in Europe.

What is the thermohaline Circulation Cycle?

The thermohaline circulation cycle (THC) delivers heat to the North Atlantic. In the winter the heat from the water is released into the eastward moving air masses like the Gulf Stream, thereby warming much of western and northern Europe. Cooling in the North Atlantic increases the density of the 'upper ocean water' to the point at which it becomes so dense that it sinks to the bottom and flows south towards the Antarctic, forming the 'lower limb' of this conveyor belt of North Atlantic Deep Water (NADW) (1583 Broecker).


Figure 1 (9.8, Principles of Environmental Science, 198 Cunn...


... middle of paper ...


... Our Climate Systems,' Science 278(505) (Nov 1997): 1582-8.

Gent, Peter R, 'Will the North Atlantic Ocean Thermohaline
Circulation Weaken During the 21st Century?' Geophysical Research Letters 28(5-8) (2001): 1023-6.

Knudsen, Karen-Luise and Marit-Solveig Seidenkrantz and
Kristenson, Peter, 'Last Interglacial and Early Global Circulation in the northern North Atlantic Ocean,' Quaternary Research 58 (July 2002): 22-6.

McManus, Jerry and Delia W. Oppo and Keigwin, Lloyd D.,
'Thermohaline Circulation Cycle and Prolonged Interglacial Warmth in the North Atlantic,' Quaternary Research 58 (July 2002): 17-21.

'Table 2.4: Guide to the terminology used in paleoclimate
studies of the past 150,000 years.' Table. Climate Change
2001: The Scientific Basis. Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change. 4 February 2003
http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc_tar/wg1/072.htm


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