“Until recently we would find giant ‘chimneys’ in the sea where columns of cold, dense water were sinking from the surface to the seabed 3,000 metres below, but now they have almost disappeared,” [Peter Wadhams, professor of ocean physics at Cambridge University,] said.
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Such a change could have a severe impact on Britain, which lies on the same latitude as Siberia and ought to be much colder. The Gulf Stream transports 27,000 times more heat to British shores than all the nation’s power supplies could provide, warming Britain by 5-8C.
Wadhams and his colleagues believe, however, that just such changes could be well under way. They predict that the slowing of the Gulf Stream is likely to be accompanied by other effects, such as the complete summer melting of the Arctic ice cap by as early as 2020 and almost certainly by 2080. This would spell disaster for Arctic wildlife such as the polar bear, which could face extinction.