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Is Cold Atlantic Sign of Climate Change?

The long hot summer, along with recent droughts, makes some scientists think global warming may be here with a vengeance. But the real sign of climate change will be when Europe gets colder, because the ocean current that warms it stops flowing up from the south. Now scientists are reporting that the Atlantic ocean has become unseasonably cold?is this a signal that sudden climate change has begun?

Warren Washington, of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, who helped create the Bush climate research plan says, "?One of the aspects we will be looking at carefully is what's happening in the North Atlantic as the sea ice and glaciers melt and add fresh water to ocean circulation, and may change the transport of warm water in the Gulf Stream."

John F. Kelly writes in the Washington Post that the Atlantic's sudden temperature dive is mystifying scientists. In Maryland, the water is so cold that swimmers are staying on land. Surfer David Quillin says, "I've never experienced it in my whole life, where the water right along shore could be that radically cold."

"During [most of] July, our water temperatures were, I would say, right around normal [in the low 70s]," says Capt. Butch Arbin, of the Ocean City Beach Patrol. About two weeks ago, he says, "There was a tremendous change in temperature, [dropping] as much as 10 degrees overnight." Vacationers all along the East Coast, all the way down to Florida, have noticed a precipitous drop in the ocean temperature. Many of them have contacted the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration about it. Oceanographer William Tseng thinks it could be caused by increased river runoff from this spring's rain, a current of cold seawater coming down from the North Atlantic, or what's called "coastal upwelling," which occurs when winds push the warm surface layer of the water out to sea.

So far, no one's mentioned the possibility that the Gulf Stream has dropped down, as Whitley Strieber and Art Bell predicted in The Coming Global Superstorm. If this has happened, the summer heat wave in Europe will be followed by an autumn of devastatingly cold weather. Right now, there's nothing to do but wait and see.

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