The UK could be vulnerable to a horrifying “deep freeze” due to the abrupt shutdown of Atlantic Ocean currents, experts warn.
According to a study of a computer simulation, that was published in the Science Advances journal, the UK and Europe could see temperatures plummet and the phenomenon could be triggered by the ice sheet in Greenland melting.
Scientists warn it would be a catastrophe that could even cause worldwide shortages of food and water.
However, despite the horrific nature of the warnings, the scientists say that the possibility of this happening is still decades from happening.
The focus of the study centred around a current known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC).
If this stops then it wouldn’t just affect the weather in the UK and Europe, but globally. Temperatures could drop by between five and 15C and arctic ice would spread across a wider area.
Furthermore, rainfall patterns around the world could change dramatically, and have a major impact on areas such as the Amazon rainforest.
Speaking to the Mirror, lead author of the study Utrecht University’s Rene van Westen warned that the world was heading towards a “tipping point”.
Mr van Westen explained: “We are moving closer, but we’re not sure how much closer. We are heading towards a tipping point.”
As to when the catastrophic weather event might happen, Mr van Westen said he couldn’t be certain, but other studies have shown that the AMOC is slowing.
Responding to the study, Stefan Rahmstorf, the head of Earth Systems Analysis at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Research said: “The new study adds significantly to the rising concern about an AMOC collapse in the not-too-distant future. We will ignore this at our peril.”
The warnings about the slowing of the AMOC come as the UK endures a tumultuous storm season which has left hundreds of homes flooded and thousands without power on several occasions.
Addressing concerns that this could be part of a growing trend towards more powerful storm systems, Science Manager at the National Climate Information Centre at the Met Office Dr Amy Doherty said storm seasons changed from year to year.
She explained: “The UK has a history of impactful storms stretching back hundreds of years, long before the introduction of named storms in 2015.
“One thing that is clear from observations is that there’s big variability year-to-year in the number and intensity of storms that impact the UK.
“This large variability is related to the UK’s location at the edge of continental Europe and relatively small geographic size, so small changes in the position of the jet stream, which puts us in the path of low-pressure systems, can make a profound difference in the weather we receive.”