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Climate Change Research

Volume 589: debated on Thursday 7 May 1998

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asked Her Majesty's Government:What is their present information about circulation changes between the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans; whether they accept that these changes could result in the climate of Europe becoming similar to present day Labrador; and to what they attribute these changes, revealed in recent studies by the Natural Environment Research Council. [HL1719]

Recent work at the Southampton Oceanography Centre suggests that the amount of water flowing south of Greenland, part of which comes from the Arctic, has declined in the 1990s to about half its level between 1958 and 1991. This may well be part of a natural cycle, but we do not rule out the possibility that it is a longer-term change, perhaps due to human influences. The attribution of these changes is the subject of current and proposed research programmes by the Natural Environment Research Council.My department is funding computer modelling of climate at the Hadley Centre to investigate this possibility and its effect on the climate of Europe. While climate models suggest that global warming due to increasing greenhouse gas concentrations may weaken the North Atlantic thermohaline circulation, this seems unlikely to be sufficient to cool the climate of North West Europe; indeed, most models predict a net warming here in response to increasing greenhouse gases.