THOR invited at UN conference in Doha


The “Thermohaline Overturning: At Risk?” project (THOR) has presented its results at UN conference in Doha: The Atlantic circulation is not going to collapse within the next ten years.

The United Nations climate change conference in Doha must start the hard work of turning last year´s agreement to enhance global climate action into reality. The European Union wants an outcome that takes forward all elements of the package of decisions agreed in Durban towards a new global climate agreement by 2015.

For this purpose a number of selected projects dealing with Climate Change and financed by the Seventh Framework Programme were invited by the European Commission to take part to the conference and present their results. Among these was the project THOR “Thermohaline Overturning: At Risk?” which is coordinated by Prof. Detlef Quadfasel of the University of Hamburg.

At the European Commission event on “Global and Regional Impacts of Polar Warming”, Jean-Claude Gascard, senior scientist of the THOR partnership has illustrated the results of four years of researches: The project explored the dynamics of the Atlantic circulation that, to a large extent, is responsible for Europe’s moderate climate. A good knowledge of the state of the North Atlantic is a pre-requisite for reliable decadal climate forecasts.

THOR´s scientists employed ocean observations, reconstruction of paleodata, and climate models to define the present state of the Atlantic circulation, explore its natural variability and predict its future development. The circulation has been stable during the past decades, but it actually reacts to external drivers in just decades. With the tools developed, scientists can take into account the different drivers influencing the future climate in the world (for example increased CO2 emissions in the atmosphere, volcanism, changes in solar intensity etc.) and can feed these into models to give much more accurate predictions of what will happen in the future.

There is actually a risk that something might happen to the Atlantic circulation, but we can be quite sure that the collapse of the thermohaline circulation isn´t going to happen within the next ten years. Nevertheless, we need to continue the surveillance, in order to develop an early warning system to allow society to timely elaborate adaptation strategies.

The THOR project finalizes its activities on 30 November 2012 with the participation to the COP18 event and the launching of a short documentary.

THOR scientists will continue their research in a follow-up project, NACLIM, which has been launched on 1 November and will run until 31 January 2017.