Wednesday, June 01, 2005

So Much For The Day After Tomorrow, Tomorrow

Over at RealClimate, Gavin McLeod remarks upon an already much-remarked-upon story, namely that thermohaline circulation is slowing in the North Atlantic. This was the basis for the recent dystopian thriller, The Day After Tomorrow. But, unusually for McLeod, the news is fairly good this time:
It is important to bear in mind that while the changes being seen are indeed significant given the accuracy of modern oceanography, the magnitude of the changes (a few hundredths of a salinity unit) are very much smaller (maybe two orders of magnitude) than the kinds of changes inferred from the paleo data or seen in climate models. Thus while continued monitoring of this key climatic area is clearly warranted, the imminent chilling of the Europe is a ways off yet.
The images we have of our world influence our thinking, something that the Day After Tomorrow were clearly trying to do. Roger Pielke, Jr. recently brought up the "hockey stick" as a lever to gain political power regardless of the merits of that projection. I fear that we're in for a lot of apocalyptic stories, some of which have plausibility, but few of which are unavoidable, the xenophobic, I Love Lucy-hating space aliens attacking and destroying all life on earth scenario notwithstanding.