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 GSA Today, v. 9, no. 1, January 1999


Table of Contents

Science Article: (View Abstract)
What If the Conveyor were to Shut Down? Reflections on a Possible Outcome of the Great Global Experiment
by W. S. Broecker

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NPS Internships 5
GSA Strategic Plan 9
Environment Matters 10
About People 10
1999 Officers and Councilors 11
1999 Research Grants 11
Presidential Address Abstract 12
GSA Today Student Correspondent 12
Cady Award Nominations 12
Call for Nominations 13
Technical Program and Hot Topics Chairs 13
GSAF Update 14
Cordilleran Section Meeting 18
Washington Report: Sustaining America 21
Congressional Science Fellowship 22
New GSA Members, Associates, Fellows 23
Executive Director Position 26
1999 Section Meetings 27
SAGE Remarks: To Promote Geoscience in the Service of Society 28
Bulletin and Geology Contents 30
Appreciation and Thanks 31
Call for Geology Co-Editor 31
Cole Award Nominations 32
1999 GeoVentures 32
Calendar 34
1999 Division Officers 34
Classifieds 35
GSA Meetings 36

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What If the Conveyor were to Shut Down?
Reflections on a Possible Outcome of the Great Global Experiment

by W. S. Broecker

Suggestions that the ongoing greenhouse buildup might induce a shutdown of the ocean's thermohaline circulation raise the questions as to how Earth's climate would change if such an event were to occur. The answer preferred by the popular press is that conditions akin to those that characterized the Younger Dryas-the last kiloyear cold snap-would return. But this extreme scenario is an unlikely one, for models suggest that in order to force a conveyor shutdown, Earth would have to undergo a 4 to 5 °C greenhouse warming. Hence, the conditions at the onset of the shutdown would be very different from those that preceded the Younger Dryas. Thus, it is unlikely that new climate conditions would be nearly so severe. Unfortunately, because no atmospheric model to date has been able to create the observed large and abrupt changes in climate state of Earth's atmosphere, we lack even the crudest road map. However, as was the case for each of the abrupt changes recorded in Greenland's ice, if the conveyor were to shut down, climate would likely flicker for several decades before locking into its new state. The consequences to agricultural production of these flickers would likely be profound.

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