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The Gulf Stream is weakening - says science.

Is the North Atlantic understood?

Post March 5, 2021

Has the North Atlantic become the newest playground for climate science? Support has now come from the New York Times, (March 03, 2021), citing some scholars fear that “The warming atmosphere is causing an arm of the powerful Gulf Stream to weaken”. The title of the article written by Moises Velasquez-Manoff and Jeremy White is: “In the Atlantic Ocean, Subtle Shifts Hint at Dramatic Dangers”. It immediately met with great approval from the readers:  Fantastic article! Fantastic visualization! Amazing graphics!

It is undoubtedly of high journalistic quality. Pretty much everything said in science is addressed in an understandable way, from the melting of the ice on Greenland to global warming by humans. The article ends by quoting Dr. Lozier as follows: “There’s no consensus on whether it has slowed to date, or if it’s currently slowing. But there is a consensus that if we continue to warm the atmosphere, it will slow.” A recent paper by L. Caesar et al (Fn.1) spurred the NYT to pick up the issue, which is discussed as it follows.

From time to time cold spots emerge in the North Atlantic (NA). New research paints a ‘consistent picture’ of change to the Atlantic’s ‘conveyer belt’, which plays a major role in world’s weather. Its finding says that a region of Newfoundland defies global warming. Is a cold blob in the North Atlantic a matter to be concerned of?  That may depend on whether the authors took the following three aspects into consideration:

a.   The average depth is about 3’300 meters, and colder than + 4C. A cold spot showing up at the sea surface is presumably a very small fraction from entire water volume of the North Atlantic, presumably less than 0,1%.

b.   Are considerations mainly based on air temperatures from 1900 to 2013 (see Fig. at top), of any help in the climate change debate.

c.   Do the most pronounced climatic shifts since 1850, the strong warming from 1919 to 1939 and the lasting cooling from 1940 to mid-1970, played any role with regard to the topic?  (Details HERE)

On none of these elementary points the research paper by L. Caesar in NATURE  titled: “Current Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation weakest in last millennium”, pays attention that puts the paper in the category of speculation. Here after at first the paper’s Abstract, followed by a few comments.

The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC)—one of Earth’s major ocean circulation systems—redistributes heat on our planet and has a major impact on climate. Here, we compare a variety of published proxy records to reconstruct the evolution of the AMOC since about ad 400. A fairly consistent picture of the AMOC emerges: after a long and relatively stable period, there was an initial weakening starting in the nineteenth century, followed by a second, more rapid, decline in the mid-twentieth century, leading to the weakest state of the AMOC occurring in recent decades.

The AMOC is popularly known as the Gulf Stream System. The Gulf Stream is typically 100 kilometres wide and 800 metres to 1,200 metres deep. That is certainly a lot of water, but how much compared with the entire NA water volume. Is it 0,5%, or more, or less, and is this flow of water and its surrounding observed, and data available in reasonable numbers?


 One would have expected that the paper analysis sub-sea-surface observations. Nothing! Instead the research’s combines several different types of climate “proxy data”. “Proxy data” is a term given to natural records that can be used to study past changes to the world’s climate, respectively are preserved physical characteristics of the past that stand in for direct meteorological measurements and enable scientists to reconstruct the climatic conditions over a longer fraction of the Earth's history. Examples of proxy datasets include ice cores, tree rings and ocean sediments (Fn. 2). The researcher’s claim that they have not only looked at few, but up to a dozen, finding them sufficient to “tell a consistent story of how the AMOC evolved over the last 1600 years”. Such boosted assessments seem to become frequently, since, for example Stefan Rahmstorf in 2015 at “”, covered already 1100 years.

How can one take seriously a study that ignores the subject of investigation, namely the North Atlantic? Using proxy data instead is misguided and irresponsible. At most proxy-data may tell that air sea temperatures have been warmer or colder for some time, but nothing at all about the status and movement within the water-body at any time in the past.  To claim that one can make statements about the future behavior of the water masses is speculative, arrogant and naive.

None of the above-mentioned points (a-c) is discussed by the authors. At least they should have mentioned the huge dimensions involved, and the huge supremacy of ocean temperature over air temperature, which is a too big story to be raised here.

 However, it is shocking to reckon the author’s inability to include the two most pronounced climatic shifts since the end of the Little Ice Age at about 1850. Both events (see above; item C) have had their origin in the North Atlantic. The warming from 1919-1939 was particular pronounced in the Atlantic Sector of the Arctic, and felt all over the Northern Hemisphere (in America until 1933, and elsewhere until 1939). The causing of the global cooling from winter 1939/40 lasted until the mid-1970, came from the oceans in the Northern Hemisphere, the North Atlantic and the North Pacific. Both events stand in a very close correlation with the naval warfare during the two World Wars. By human activities at sea huge water masses were churned, altering ocean temperature and salinity structure.  

Even if science is unwilling to consider whether the two most prominent changing trends in the climate during the last Century had been anthropogenic, their findings about the processes of the AMOC in recent decades, or during the last 1000 years”, are incomprehensible. None of the internal ocean processes are explained, the dimensions and parameters involved ignored, no detailed observation data discussed, but instead assessed by computer-modeling.

Meanwhile Wikipedia summaries the state of research as it follows:

  A shutdown or slowdown of the thermohaline circulation is a hypothesized effect of global warming on a major ocean circulation. A 2015 study suggested that the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) has weakened by 15-20% in 200 years.

The only fact known is, there is sometimes a cold blob. No surprise if the waterbody is in permanent flow and has only a mean temperature of plus 4C., and the Gulf Current as only a small part of the total. Discussing in abstracts about the AMOC is an easy task. On the other hand clarifying what has caused the AMOC to support the major climatic shifts in the last Century (see above, item. c.), seems to be a too difficult task for science.

Let’s finish this discussion with Dr. Lozier statement (see above): “But there is a consensus that if we continue to warm the atmosphere, (it) AMOC will slow.” Any consent does not replace missing evidence, and neither logic consideration. In physics the higher the heat the more fluid motion increase. The North Atlantic has become a scientific playground, full of speculations. That seems to be enough for them. No matter what happens to global weather, climate scientists have a pack of excuses ready to roll, so they can “explain” how they knew this was going to happen all along, including greenhouse-clobal-warming.

  Fn. 1: L. Caesar, G. D. McCarthy, D. J. R. Thornalley, N. Cahill & S. Rahmstorf

Fn. 2: More examples of proxy data: ice cores, fossil pollen, ocean sediments, ratios of oxygen isotopes in air bubbles trapped in ice masses, , lake levels;  pollen sediments in lakes/ rivers/oceans/ and coastal areas;  pack-rat middens; glacial termini, borehole temperature; coral bleaching; ; archeological information .












Reference SEA-LAW (UNCLOS) links


2006 Reprint by TRAFFORD/USA

Available from

Trafford Publishing
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington,
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Bernaerts’ Guide to the Law of the Sea
The 1982 United Nations Convention.
Fairplay Publication 1988, Coulsdon UK

Foreword of the 1988 edition
by Satya N. NandanSpecial Representative of the Secretary-General
of the United Nations for the Law of the Sea
Office for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea

Revolutionary changes have taken place in the International Law of the Sea since 1945. The process of change was accelerated in the last two decades by the convening in 1973 of the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea. The protracted negotiations, spanning over a decade, culminated in the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea in 1982. By 9 December 1984, the closing date for signature, 159 signatures were appended to the Convention, the largest number for any such multilateral instrument in the history of international relations.

 The Convention, which was adopted as a comprehensive package, introduced a new equity in the relationship among states with respect to the uses of the ocean and the allocation of its resources. It deals, inter alia, with sovereignty and jurisdiction of states, navigation and marine transport, over flight of aircraft, marine pollution, marine scientific research, marine technology, conservation and exploitation of marine living resources, the development and-exploitation of marine non-living resources in national and international areas, and unique provisions dealing with the settlement of disputes concerning the interpretation and application of the new regime.

 There is no doubt that as we approach the 21st century, more and more attention will be paid to the uses of the oceans and the development of their resources. It is important, therefore, that these developments should take place within a widely accepted legal framework so that there is certainty as to the rights and obligations of all states. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea provides that framework. It establishes a standard for the conduct of states in maritime matters. It is thus a major instrument for preventing conflicts among states.

 The convention and its annexes contain over 400 articles. For many it may be a formidable undertaking to grasp the substance and structure of it without making a considerable investment in time and energy. Mr Bernaerts' guide, therefore, is a welcome addition to the growing body of literature on the convention. It provides a most useful reference tool which will benefit administrators and policy makers, as well as scholars. It makes the convention accessible to the uninitiated and refreshes, at a glance, the memories of the initiated. With meticulous references and graphic presentations of the provisions of the convention, Mr Bernaerts has given to the international community an invaluable guide to the understanding and implementation of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Preface (extract) of 1988 edition

The reader will be aware that the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea is the first constitution of the oceans, a groundbreaking document in many respects. He or she might also have made the discovery that the full text of the Convention is immediately accessible only to experts. If the Convention were only a treaty consisting of straightforward technical regulatory provisions, it could be left to them with a clear conscience. But the Convention is to a large extent a political document and, as such, is expected to influence significantly the development of relations among the states in the world community; for this reason, a wide-spread knowledge of the scope, goals, and regulatory framework of the Convention can only serve to further the aims of the document and would surely follow the intentions of the many men and women who made this Convention their life-work, such as Arvid Pardo (Malta), Hamilton Shirtey Amerasinghe (Sri Lanka), Tommy T. B. Koh (Singapore), and Satya N. Nandan (Fiji), to name only a few of the hundreds who worked on the preparation of this Convention

As the reader uses the Guide (Part II), he will find that many provisions of the Convention are much easier to understand if one knows the basic framework within which a particular regulation is placed. The Guide aims to provide this framework, with reference to the text of the Convention and, in addition, to the supporting Commentary of Part III, which describes the overall context of the major terms and concepts. The Introduction of Part I sketches the historical background of the Convention and some of the general effects. A detailed index at the end of the book will be of assistance in finding specific subjects.

Preface of the reprint in 2005

More than 15 years ago FAIRPLAY PUBLICATIONS Ltd, Coulsdon, Surrey, England, published the book “Bernaerts’ Guide to the Law of the Sea – The 1982 United Nations Convention”. The guiding potential of the book to find access to the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention is still given. Internet technology and publishing on demand invite to provide the interested reader, law student, and researcher with this tool again. Only the Status of the Convention (ratification etc) has been updated and instead of the Final Act, the reprint includes the “Agreement relating to the Implementation of Part XI of the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea” of 1994. The thorough Index of the 1988 edition is reproduced without changes.

Arnd Bernaerts, October 2005,

Reference SEA-LAW (UNCLOS) links :



“clearly presented”
(R.R. Churchill, in: Maritime Policy & Management 1989, p. 340)

“Bernaerts has saved us a struggle”
 (JG, in: Fairplay International, 13 Oct.1988, p.33)

“this is probably the best edition of the Convention to put into the hands of Students”
(A.V. Lowe, in: Int’l and Comparative Law Quarterly, 1990, p.16)

“the work contains much useful background information..”
(R.W. Bentham, in J.of Energy & Natural Resource Law, 1989, p.336

“useful for the novice as well as for the person with extensive experience”
(M.Bonefeld, in Verfassung und Recht, 1989, p.83-85)

“it will be an invaluable reference tool and should sit on the book shelves of policy makers and all others who are involved in maritime matters”
(Vivian I. Forbes, in: The Indian Ocean Review, May 1990, p.10

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