Ocean drift

Let's go to the map.

The latitude of the southernmost point of Canada's Hudson's Bay is 55.43N. Right about where Edinburgh is an ocean away in Scotland.

Why does the climate of the former favor polar bears, while the climate of the latter favor men in kilts? Because there is a phenomenon known as the North Atlantic Drift. The drift is turbocharged by the Gulf Stream, a great warm salt river flowing north into the Atlantic along the US coast. It is recognized by oceanographers as the most powerful current in the global ocean.

Take away its moist, warm breezes, and northern Europe will see a building boom in igloos.

Ben Franklin made eight transatlantic crossings. Curious about lightning on land and the Gulf Stream at sea, he was known to lower instruments over the side of ships to measure currents, temperature, and even sea level. Philadelphia's favorite son and revolutionary America's ablest diplomat knew there was something significant about this great river in the ocean.

Data taken in the North Atlantic and reported by science writer Peter Spotts (page 15) present some of the first hard, troubling evidence that this mighty river may be shifting its "banks."

Worldwide warming has clearly caught the public's attention. Though still indefinite as to cause, scientists are getting more and more definite as to effect.

The issue of global warming takes center stage at a conference in Bonn, Germany, beginning July 16. Mr. Spotts, who covered the global warming conference at The Hague last fall, will be there. Much of The Hague's work was overshadowed by the US presidential election crisis. This time, we should pay closer attention. Spotts will be filing daily reports on our website, csmonitor.com.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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