The guardian cooling
© Screenshot/The Guardian
Deep snow drifts, skating along frozen rivers and weeks of sub-zero temperatures used to be normal features of a British winter, but they are rare today. However, in an ironic twist, global warming may help conditions like this to return in the coming decades, by disrupting the Gulf Stream - the warm ocean current responsible for taking the chill off north-west Europe.

The Gulf Stream is part of a larger ocean conveyor belt known as the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (Amoc), which moves warm water northwards in the upper layers of the Atlantic Ocean, and colder waters southwards at lower depths. Previous research has shown that a slowdown of Amoc appeared to trigger a global cold snap 13,000 years ago. In 2018 scientists revealed that the Gulf Stream was at its weakest in 1,600 years.

By investigating the impact of Greenland meltwater and rainfall on Amoc, researchers found that thankfully there is very little chance of a complete shutdown in the next 1,000 years, but instead they show there is a 15% chance of a temporary shutdown in the next 100 years, which would likely trigger cooler conditions in north-west Europe. But acting fast to limit global warming will reduce the chances of being thrown into a chill.