Fewer storms? A new study of the Gulf Stream points to fewer Atlantic hurricanes. *File photo by Tony McWilliam
Fewer storms? A new study of the Gulf Stream points to fewer Atlantic hurricanes. *File photo by Tony McWilliam

Major Atlantic currents that act as a conduit for warm wet air are weakening, according to new research.

What does that mean for Bermuda?

No one is quite sure.

A British study has found that major currents in the Atlantic have slowed down for more than a decade, according to The Guardian (UK). One part of the system of surface and deep-water currents called the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, is called the Gulf Stream. 

That’s the current that keeps the water near Bermuda warm and allows for the northernmost coral reef in the world.

The changing of currents could make for drier summers in Britain and more droughts in parts of mainland Europe and Africa, but no one is quite sure what will happen, just as no one is certain what that means for the island.

Jon Robson, who led the research at the University of Reading, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, said: “Our findings suggest there could be a relative cooling of the North Atlantic sooner rather than later, perhaps over the next decade or so... However, there’s quite a bit of uncertainty about how fast changes might happen, and other influences — such as sea ice and greenhouse gas emissions — are also important.” He told The Guardian the weakening of AMOC could also lead to fewer Atlantic hurricanes.

Kimberley Zuill, director of the Bermuda Weather Service, said: “Bermuda has a marine sub-tropical climate, where our surface air temperature is moderated by the surrounding sea temperature. The Gulf Stream — and the occasional warm and cold water eddies that spin off of the Gulf Stream — influence local weather in a variety of ways. 

“Whenever heat and moisture are added to a weather system the dynamics of that system must change.”

 She continued, “Satellite images regularly show intensification of weather systems as they cross over the warm Gulf Stream. Bermuda already experiences changes in weather with respect to the seasonal migration pattern of the Gulf Stream. 

“As with most research, it is very difficult to infer simple cause and effect. There are many ingredients that make up a resultant weather condition and ocean temperatures are one of them.”

We reached out to the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences but it was unable to provide a comment before deadline.