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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 June, 2005, 14:23 GMT 15:23 UK
Chilly theory on climate change
Waves breaking against the shore
Changes in ocean currents could trigger climate change
Global warming could lead to a cooling down of northern Europe, according to research led by experts at the University of Edinburgh.

The study suggests that major climate changes are influenced by fluctuations in ocean currents.

The researchers' work contrasts with the view that there will be uniform global warming across the world.

Professor David Sugden said the research raised "interesting questions" about climate stability.

Experts said a climactic "seesaw" effect, last triggered when the post Ice Age earth heated thousands of years ago, could be set off again.

Researchers compared radiocarbon and isotope samples from Patagonia with north Atlantic glacier changes.

They found that during times of major climate change, glaciers in Patagonia expanded as those in the north shrank and vice versa.

Our discoveries raise interesting questions for our present warming world
Prof Sugden
Edinburgh University

The research, which claims that the north Atlantic's relatively warm waters could cool at the same time as the colder southern ocean hots up, appears in the Swedish journal Geografiska Annaler.

It also suggests that Ice Age conditions could return to the northern hemisphere sooner mthan experts initially thought.

Experts said the study was significant because it found that changes in global climate are influenced not only by atmospheric conditions, but also by fluctuations in ocean currents.

Prof Sugden, the project leader, said: "Our discoveries raise interesting questions for our present warming world.

"How stable is our present climate system? How far can it be pushed before we inadvertently switch the bipolar seesaw on or off?

"It's during the transition from one mode to the other that the climate may become more sensitive to the effects of the seesaw."

Scientists from the universities of Durham and Stirling and the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre also contributed to the study.


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