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Global Warming Is Slowing Ocean Currents Causing Dire Consequences, Warns Climate Expert Michael Mann

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Climate scientists Michael Mann and Stefan Rahmstorf announced the findings of their new study yesterday, which shows that the rapid melting of the polar ice has slowed down currents in the Atlantic Ocean, particularly since 1970. The scientists say "the slowdown in ocean currents will result in sea level rise in cities like New York and Boston, and temperature changes on both sides of the Atlantic," reports NPR's Jeremy Hobson. Mann, who is a professor and the director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University, joined Hobson yesterday on Here and Now to discuss the study and the implications of its findings.

Not only would North America and Europe experience colder temperatures, but "If those current systems shut down, then suddenly the North Atlantic [fisheries] would no longer be productive," says Michael Mann. 
Photo credit: Shutterstock 

Mann explains the consequences of the Gulf Stream shutting down and how it would drastically alter the climate in Europe and North America. The last time this happened, about 12,000 years ago, at the end of the last ice age, North America and Europe went back into a mini-ice age, Mann says. Not only would North America and Europe experience colder temperatures, but "If those current systems shut down, then suddenly the North Atlantic [fisheries] would no longer be productive," says Mann.

Mann says a shutdown of the Gulf Stream might happen a lot sooner than the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report predicts. "Our studies suggest we are much closer to that than the current model suggests. A full shutdown ... could be decades from now."

Listen to the full interview here:

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A volcano erupts on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island on Dec. 9, 2019. Michael Schade / Twitter

A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.

"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."

The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.

Michael Schade / Twitter

At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.

The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.

Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.

"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."

Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.

Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.

"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.

"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."

The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.

Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.

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