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Paul Baker explains how the oceans keep Europe warm

Baker said a slowdown of ocean circulation, caused by global warming, could mean less heat brought by the oceans to Earth’s high latitudes. And that means, in a warming world, Europe could get cold.

Paul Baker: One of the most important roles of the ocean in how the Earth works is the role of the oceans in climate.

Oceanographer Paul Baker talked to us about how oceans help regulate global temperature.

Paul Baker: The ocean and the atmosphere work together to carry heat from the tropics to higher latitudes.

In other words, they draw warm currents from the equator.

Paul Baker: That makes it possible for us to live all over the surface of the Earth and not, perhaps, just in certain very small parts of the Earth.

The ocean also helps move colder water to lower latitudes. So there’s a continuous exchange of water between latitudes. Baker said this circulation might be vital to maintaining moderate climate systems on Earth.

Paul Baker: The slowdown of it could mean that less heat is brought to high latitudes, and that Europe could get cold. So it’s kind of ironic that global warming in this scenario could bring the cooling of northern Europe.

He also added that ocean circulation could be disrupted by global warming. This potential cooling of Europe is still under debate.

Join EarthSky in celebrating The International Year of Planet Earth. Thanks to the National Science Foundation and US Geological Survey.

Our thanks to:
Paul Baker
Duke University
Durham, NC

EarthSky

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