Gambling on the Gulf Stream

British Pathé News was a British institution that produced news reels and documentaries from 1910 to 1970. Their website is full of news clips of polar interest such as Shackleton’s death in 1922.

But here is something wonderful and obscure. Gambling with the Gulf Stream made in 1936!

Gambling with the Gulf Stream
© British Pathe screengrab from online preview.

In just 2 and a half minutes the voice-over explains what the Gulf Stream is, how much heat it carries (“every day it gives more heat than the world’s coal supply in 2 years“), and what would be the impact on some regional climates if its pathway was deliberately moved by geoengineering.

“We should find icebergs off our favourite seafront”

icebergs off our favourite seafront
© British Pathe screengrab from online preview.

“The deflected gulf stream … would melt ice at the north pole”

The diverted gulf stream path
© British Pathe screengrab from online preview.

“instead of icefields tropical plants would spring up"

(note the penguin at the North Pole!)

Penguins at the north pole
© British Pathe screengrab from online preview.

“The north pole would have to look for a new home."

Sad North Pole
© British Pathe screengrab from online preview.

"And all through gambling with the gulf stream”.

Go watch it!:  Gambling with the Gulf Stream

It’s brilliant and shows our 1936 understanding of the effect of the oceans' circulation on regional climate.


Today we have a better understanding of the ocean circulation at a climate scale. But naturally we still have much to learn. Quirin Schiermeier published a nice piece in 2013 Nature, Oceans Under Surveillance, which showed the big experiments intended and currently going on.

Experiments studying the Atlantic Circulation
Schematic of the Atlantic Circulation and oceanographic experiments. From NATURE

Since the piece was written the OSNAP program (Overturning in the Subpolar North Atlantic Program) began, and RAPID –WATCH is still running. Both projects have some great information on their websites and there are active researchers on twitter.

Relevant Links:

Some UK OSNAP Oceanographers on Twitter I think are good "follows"





Project Websites

The UK OSNAP project site

The International OSNAP site

The RAPID-Watch site

[Please let me know who I have missed on twitter]