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Thermohaline Circulation, the Achilles Heel of Our Climate System: Will Man-Made CO2 Upset the Current Balance?

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Science  28 Nov 1997:
Vol. 278, Issue 5343, pp. 1582-1588
DOI: 10.1126/science.278.5343.1582

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Abstract

During the last glacial period, Earth's climate underwent frequent large and abrupt global changes. This behavior appears to reflect the ability of the ocean's thermohaline circulation to assume more than one mode of operation. The record in ancient sedimentary rocks suggests that similar abrupt changes plagued the Earth at other times. The trigger mechanism for these reorganizations may have been the antiphasing of polar insolation associated with orbital cycles. Were the ongoing increase in atmospheric CO2 levels to trigger another such reorganization, it would be bad news for a world striving to feed 11 to 16 billion people.

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