Fears Gulf Stream is approaching collapse, causing 'The Day After Tomorrow'-style ice age in Europe

12 February 2024, 15:20

A new ice age covering the northern hemisphere is The Day After Tomorrow's doomsday scenario
A new ice age covering the northern hemisphere is The Day After Tomorrow's doomsday scenario. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Fears the world's climate is reaching a "tipping point" that could see the collapse of the Gulf Stream and plunge the world into lower temperatures have been raised by experts.

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The nightmare scenario - freakishly similar to the 2004 disaster film The Day After Tomorrow - could have "severe and cascading consequences around the world".

Melting glaciers could bring down the Gulf Stream, which helps heat the northern hemisphere.

And a study from Utrecht University in the Netherlands fears the collapse of Atlantic currents is approaching.

Climate scientist Rene van Westen, the lead author on the research, said: "We are moving closer to the collapse, but we're not sure how much closer.

"We are heading towards a tipping point."

She warned the "million dollar question" is whether a The Day After Tomorrow scenario would be possible.

Temperatures plummet in 2004's The Day After Tomorrow
Temperatures plummet in 2004's The Day After Tomorrow. Picture: Alamy

"We unfortunately can't answer [that] at the moment. It also depends on the rate of climate change we are inducing as humanity."

In the Jake Gyllenhaal film, the northern hemisphere is plunged into a new ice age as countries are engulfed in a frozen climate.

Survivors are forced to flee south to warmer parts or keep themselves alive in the ice and snow until they can be rescued.

The Gulf Stream helps heat northern parts of the world by transporting warm water from the tropic.

Read more: Winter comes back: New weather map shows heavy snow forecast as Brits in for freezing end to February

Past studies have also suggested the system that powers the Gulf Stream is slowing down.

And some simulations have shown that a collapse could see parts of Europe cool by 1C a decade, with areas even experiencing drops of as much as 3C every 10 years.

It's been suggested that other effects could include droughts in the summer, more common heatwaves, soaring sea levels and a heavy reduction in Britain's amount of arable land.

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