Climate Change Affecting Ocean Circulation and Environmental Pollution

May 25, 2015

Ninety-seven percent of scientists agree: climate change is happening, we’re largely to blame, and the effects are not as far off as you might think. What effects, you ask? Well, there's increasingly frequent and intense heat waves, drought, torrential rains. There's melting glaciers and rising sea level. Now, new research add some less intuitive climate change impacts.

  1. Those melting glaciers appear to be slowing down the Gulf Stream, and the larger conveyer belt-like ocean circulation pattern of which it is a part. Scientists documented a 30 percent slowdown in 2009-2010, which resulted in a temporary five-inch jump in sea level rise along the coast of New England. Over the long-term, the slowdown is slightly less dramatic, at 15 percent. Still, that's enough to scare Scott Rutherford, Associate Professor of Environmental Science at Roger Williams University. He was part of an international team that recently published evidence of the slowdown, calling it “exceptional."
  2. From heat waves to downpours, extreme weather may be making some environmental pollutants more dangerous, and vice versa. A new report on interactions between climate change and environmental contaminants in the northeast finds that changing weather patterns may be raising available levels of the most toxic form of mercury, reducing nesting success of several threatened bird species. Conversely, some toxins may reduce the ability of amphibians to handle hot, dry spells, which are only getting worse.