Canadian Underwriter

Benfield “hazard review” addresses “Day After Tomorrow” scenario

September 19, 2004   by Canadian Underwriter

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While the film “The Day After Tomorrow” was certainly fictitious, some of the science behind it is not. The concept of global warming slowing down the Gulf Stream and its North Atlantic Drift, is currently the subject of much research, according to the first edition of the annual “Hazard & Risk Science Review”, published by Benfield Hazard Research Centre in London, U.K.
The publication addresses current research in a number of hazard-related areas including hurricane/typhoon forecasts, predicting landslides and volcanic eruptions, and climate change.
In its climate change section, the report highlights new thinking on how warm winds like the gulf stream could be weakened by global warming, a possibility once seen as a century to two removed from now. However, new research suggests this timeline could be moved up dramatically. “The theory is that increased precipitation and ice melting in the Arctic and increasing northward flow of freshwater from Siberian rivers all a consequence if climate change – will work to reduce the salinity of the Gulf Stream; the resulting fall in density preventing the waters from sinking as they reach high latitudes. This would short-circuit the Atlantic Conveyor (Gulf Stream and North Atlantic Drift) by stopping or slowing the return flow of cold, dense water.”
Evidence suggests this effect is already happening, although a weakening of the Gulf Stream remains decades away, scientists say. However, if this should occur, the deterioration could be rapid and has the potential to lead to a “little Ice Age”, with severe winters lasting many months.
Other potential impacts of global warming highlighted in the publication include a historical link between increased concentrations of methane gas and catastrophic landsliding around the margins of continents.
The full publication can be viewed at

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