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12 April 2010

Mega-flood triggered Europe's last big freeze... and global warming could plunge us into the cold again, warn scientists

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Europe was plunged into a mini ice age 13,000 years ago after global warming caused a mega-flood, geologists said today

Mark Bateman from the University of Sheffield, said a catastrophic flood was caused when an ice sheet in the U.S melted causing a huge amount of freshwater to be dumped into the Arctic Ocean.

This led to the shutting down of the Gulf Stream ocean circulation pattern that brings warmth to Europe.

The finding has confirmed past theories about the likely cause of a sudden cooling period called the Younger Dryas when temperatures in Europe, similar to today, quickly returned to ice age conditions. The cooling lasted for about 1,400 years.

'Our research shows that if you put a large volume of fresh water into the North Atlantic in a very short space of time, this is what happens,' Dr Bateman said.

His team's work is published in the latest issue of the journal Nature. The Gulf Stream acts like a conveyer belt by bringing warm water from the tropics to Europe while cold salty water sinks to the depths in the far north. This 'overturning' circulation draws in yet more warm water from the south.

(Daily Mail)

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