PODCAST | A rushing sea that comes to a standstill: with Carlos Duarte

PODCAST |  A rushing sea that comes to a standstill: with Carlos Duarte


As we counted the waves, the ocean stopped. More precisely in the Atlantic. The current that carries warm water from Mexico to northern Europe has never been slower in at least a thousand years.

As we counted the waves, the sea screamed at us. Literally another study showing how noisy the seas have become because of us. In this podcast we talk to the oceanographer Carlos Duarte about these two phenomena that he knows well. But also how we got here.

Where did all the water in the oceans come from? Because the earth was young one day. And it seems hard to imagine that this hot chunk, which was nothing but stardust, would end up forming huge masses of liquid water. These masses haven’t stopped moving in 4,000 million years, until now this part of the ocean stops.

We owe our lives to the oceans. And life begins to die in the water as we change ecosystems. When we overheat things or when we turn them sour. Something happens. And a German team of climatologists has sounded the alarm that the Atlantic Ocean’s backflow appears to be stopping, leaving a “blue stain” on maps of temperature anomalies beneath Greenland.

An ocean current that gives us mild winters stops

The Atlantic reverse current ‘AMOC’ (whose engine is the Gulf Stream) works like a belt, bringing us warm water from the Gulf of Mexico. The one who protects us precisely from some phenomena of extreme cold.

Stephan Rahmstorf from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Research and co-author of this discovery explains in this podcast that this flow has a huge impact on the climate in the northern hemisphere, which explains why we have a little more heat than we should. AMOC is faltering in this ocean.

The point is that a mysterious blue dot in the North Atlantic has been observed on temperature maps throughout the 20th century. An area beneath Greenland that is getting colder while the rest of the planet’s surface is rapidly heating up. This only seems to explain because the ocean is standing still. This stream in particular is at an all-time low.

We spoke about this phenomenon with Carlos Duarte, another of the world’s greatest oceanographers. This King Abdalá University professor traveled to Bilbao in September 2021 to receive the Frontiers of Knowledge 2020 award and we spoke to him. He has been diving for four decades. And he recognizes that attention needs to be paid to this phenomenon, which is almost more concerning for land dwellers than for sea dwellers. Because sea creatures are already exposed to serious threats on a daily basis.

One of them is noise. The oceans and seas are veritable highways for ships. Amusement parks along the coast every summer. A riot of nets and dynamite plunging into the high seas. The pounding of industrial and extractive activity. It’s brushstrokes that together fill the ocean and sea with sounds. Duarte published a study from which at least curious data emerge.

Every day, an abandoned WWII bomb explodes in the northern European sea zone. And it’s not even the main problem of this ocean, which seems to stand still while we count the waves.

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