Gulf Stream NASA

Gulf Stream view from space NASA

When Tom Rossby travels to Europe and mentions he’s an oceanographer, people inevitably ask: Is the Gulf Stream slowing down?

“I kid you not, it’s very well etched into the minds of people, especially in Scandinavia,” he said.

And for good reason. During winter, Scandinavia is 20 degrees warmer than Newfoundland, which is at the same latitude.

And the Gulf Stream is a great conveyor of heat that heads toward northern Europe. Some fear a slower Gulf Stream would mean less heat heading across the Atlantic.

Rossby is quick to reassure.

“The evidence of a slowdown is extremely tenuous.”

His proof: A freighter named the Oleander.

More than two decades ago, Rossby led an effort to outfit the Oleander with instruments as it sailed between Bermuda and Port Elizabeth, N.J.

“We are making direct measurements, and we’re not seeing any slowdown.” Variations in the Gulf Strength "for all we know are wind-driven." 

Others countered that other parts of the Atlantic ocean current system have slowed. 

What's clear, Rossby agrees, is that more long-term measurements are needed.

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For a deeper dive into the Gulf Stream and the amazing and disturbing things happening to it, visit our new special report: Into the Gulf Stream

Reach Tony Bartelme at 843-937-5554. Follow him on Twitter @tbartelme.

Tony Bartelme is senior projects reporter for The Post and Courier. He has earned national honors from the Nieman, Scripps, Loeb and National Press foundations and is a three-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Reach him at 843-937-5554 and @tbartelme