A new climate model generated by the University of California’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography suggests that if current warming trends continue, they could cause a failure in the circulation of the currents in the Atlantic Ocean, in turn leading to a major cooling event in the waters of the North Atlantic. This event was illustrated by Art Bell and Whitley Strieber in their 1999 book, The Coming Global Superstorm.

The researchers behind this new climate model realized that current models have a bias toward assuming that the Atlantic Ocean’s currents, collectively called the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), is more stable than it appears: their new model removes that stability, resulting in the simulation showing that the current will fail at some point in the future, triggering a large-scale cooling event in the North Atlantic. The simulations show a plunge in air temperatures over the North Atlantic of 2.4º C (4.3º F), and a more pronounced drop over northwest Europe drop by as much as 7º C (12.6º F). Tropical rain belts would be pushed further south, and the Arctic ice sheet would spread southward.

“The significance of our study is to point out a systematic bias in current climate models that hinders a correct climate projection,” explains Wei Liu, the study’s lead author. “A bias-corrected model puts the AMOC in a realistic stability regime and predicts a future AMOC collapse with prominent cooling over the northern North Atlantic and neighboring areas. Therefore, our study has enormous implications for regional and global climate change.”

In The Coming Global Superstorm, the collapse of the North Atlantic Current allows warm air that had been pooling in the Arctic to flow south, triggering a massive, hemisphere-spanning superstorm, plunging the northern hemisphere into a new ice age.