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GULF STREAM STOPPED > CONSEQUENCES > Gulf Stream earth change cycles

GULF STREAM STOPPED > CONSEQUENCES > Gulf Stream earth change cycles

GULF STREAM STOPPED > CONSEQUENCES > Gulf Stream Info earth change cycles and its importance to the ocean flows of the world ..

The Gulf Stream, together with its northern extension towards Europe, the North Atlantic Drift, is a powerful, warm, and swift Atlantic ocean current that originates at the tip of Florida, and follows the eastern coastlines of the United States and Newfoundland before crossing the Atlantic Ocean. The process of western intensification causes the Gulf Stream to be a northward accelerating current off the east coast of North America. At about 40°0′N 30°0′W / 40°N 30°W / 40; -30, it splits in two, with the northern stream crossing to northern Europe and the southern stream recirculating off West Africa. The Gulf Stream influences the climate of the east coast of North America from Florida to Newfoundland, and the west coast of Europe. Although there has been recent debate, there is consensus that the climate of Western Europe and Northern Europe is warmer than it would otherwise be due to the North Atlantic drift, one of the branches from the tail of the Gulf Stream. It is part of the North Atlantic Gyre. Its presence has led to the development of strong cyclones of all types, both within the atmosphere and within the ocean. The Gulf Stream is also a significant potential source of renewable power generation.

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History

Benjamin Franklin's map of the Gulf Stream

European discovery of the Gulf Stream dates to the 1513 expedition of Juan Ponce de León, after which it became widely used by Spanish ships sailing from the Caribbean to Spain.[1] A summary of Ponce de León's voyage log, on April 22, 1513, noted, "A current such that, although they had great wind, they could not proceed forward, but backward and it seems that they were proceeding well; at the end it was known that the current was more powerful than the wind." Its existence was also known to Peter Martyr d'Anghiera, and to Sir Humphrey Gilbert at that time.

As deputy postmaster of the British American colonies, Benjamin Franklin became interested in the North Atlantic Ocean circulation patterns. In 1768, while in England, Franklin heard a curious complaint from the Colonial Board of Customs: why did it take British packets several weeks longer to reach New York from England than it took an average American merchant ship to reach Newport, Rhode Island, despite the merchant ships leaving from London and having to sail down the River Thames and then the length of the English Channel before they sailed across the Atlantic, while the packets left from Falmouth in Cornwall

Franklin asked his cousin Timothy Folger, a Nantucket whaling captain, for an answer and Folger explained that merchant ships routinely crossed the then-unnamed Gulf Stream – identifying it by whale behavior, measurement of the water's temperature and the speed of bubbles on its surface, and changes in the water's color – while the mail packet captains ran against it. Franklin worked with Folger and other experienced ship captains, learning enough to chart the Gulf Stream and giving it the name by which it is still known today. He offered this information to Anthony Todd, secretary of the British Post Office, but it was ignored by British sea captains.

Franklin's Gulf Stream chart was published in 1770 in England, where it was mostly ignored. Subsequent versions were printed in France in 1778 and the U.S. in 1786. It took many years for the British to follow Franklin's advice on navigating the current but once they did, they were able to gain two weeks in sailing time.

Formation and behavior

Evolution of the Gulf Stream to the west of Ireland continuing as the North Atlantic Current

A river of sea water, called the Atlantic North Equatorial Current, flows westward off the coast of northern Africa. When this current interacts with the northeastern coast of South America, the current forks into two branches. One passes into the Caribbean Sea, while a second, the Antilles Current, flows north and east of the West Indies. These two branches rejoin north of the Straits of Florida, as shown on the accompanying map.

The trade winds blow westward in the tropics, and the westerlies blow eastward at mid-latitudes. This wind pattern applies a stress to the subtropical ocean surface with negative curl across the north Atlantic ocean. The resulting Sverdrup transport is equatorward. Because of conservation of potential vorticity caused by the northward-moving winds on the subtropical ridge's western periphery and the increased relative vorticity of northward moving water, transport is balanced by a narrow, accelerating poleward current, which flows along the western boundary of the ocean basin, outweighing the effects of friction with the western boundary current known as the Labrador current.[15] The conservation of potential vorticity also causes bends along the Gulf Stream, which occasionally break off due to a shift in the Gulf Stream's position, forming separate warm and cold eddies. This overall process, known as western intensification, causes currents on the western boundary of an ocean basin, such as the Gulf Stream, to be stronger than those on the eastern boundary.

Consequently, the resulting Gulf Stream is a strong ocean current. It transports water at a rate of 30 million cubic metres per second (30 sverdrups) through the Florida Straits. As it passes south of Newfoundland, this rate increases to 150 million cubic metres per second. The volume of the Gulf Stream dwarfs all rivers that empty into the Atlantic combined, which barely total 0.6 million cubic metres per second. It is weaker, however, than the Antarctic Circumpolar Current.[19]

Typically, the Gulf Stream is 100 kilometres (62 mi) wide and 800 metres (2,600 ft) to 1,200 metres (3,900 ft) deep. The current velocity is fastest near the surface, with the maximum speed typically about 2.5 metres per second (5.6 mph). As it travels north, the warm water transported by the Gulf Stream undergoes evaporative cooling. The cooling is wind driven: wind moving over the water cools it and also causes evaporation, leaving a saltier brine. In this process, the water increases in salinity and density, and decreases in temperature. Once sea ice forms, salts are left out of the ice, a process known as brine exclusion.[21] These two processes produce water that is denser and colder (or, more precisely, water that is still liquid at a lower temperature). In the North Atlantic Ocean, the water becomes so dense that it begins to sink down through less salty and less dense water. (The convective action is not unlike that of a lava lamp.) This downdraft of heavy, cold and dense water becomes a part of the North Atlantic Deep Water, a southgoing stream. Very little seaweed lies within the current, although seaweed lies in clusters to its east.

 

GULF STREAM STOPPED > CONSEQUENCES > Gulf Stream Info and the earth change cycles and its importance to the ocean flows of the world ..