atlantic cold blob gray orig mg_00001429.jpg
NASA
atlantic cold blob gray orig mg_00001429.jpg
Now playing
01:41
Cold 'blob' in North Atlantic
CNN
Now playing
03:29
Meet teen climate activist Greta Thunberg
Now playing
01:13
What you can actually do to slow the climate crisis
Now playing
02:30
The Road to Change: America's Climate Crisis
Now playing
03:18
Climate crisis in Alaska is impacting the entire world
faces of climate change orig nws_00005521.jpg
faces of climate change orig nws_00005521.jpg
Now playing
01:46
How climate change is changing lives
climate change 97 percent consensus orig_00005513.jpg
climate change 97 percent consensus orig_00005513.jpg
Now playing
02:29
Scientists agree: Climate change is man-made
Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren participates in CNN's climate crisis town hall in New York on September 4, 2019.
Edward M. Pio Roda/CNN
Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren participates in CNN's climate crisis town hall in New York on September 4, 2019.
Now playing
03:28
See how candidates stood out in 7 hours of climate talk
Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren participates in a climate crisis town hall hosted by CNN in New York on September 4, 2019.
Edward M. Pio Roda/CNN
Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren participates in a climate crisis town hall hosted by CNN in New York on September 4, 2019.
Now playing
01:51
Warren: Where Trump is right now is a nightmare
CNN
Now playing
02:41
Biden: Military warned us of climate crisis danger
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders participates in CNN's climate crisis town hall in New York on September 4, 2019.
Edward M. Pio Roda/CNN
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders participates in CNN's climate crisis town hall in New York on September 4, 2019.
Now playing
01:46
Sanders: Trump's stance on climate change is idiotic
CNN
Now playing
02:03
Harris on Trump: Lead or get out of the way
CNN
Now playing
00:56
Yang: You know what's expensive? Poisoning our kids
Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke participates in CNN's climate crisis town hall in New York on September 4, 2019.
Edward M. Pio Roda/CNN
Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke participates in CNN's climate crisis town hall in New York on September 4, 2019.
Now playing
01:54
O'Rourke: We need to support the people of Puerto Rico
Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg participates in CNN's climate crisis town hall in New York on September 4, 2019.
Edward M. Pio Roda/CNN
Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg participates in CNN's climate crisis town hall in New York on September 4, 2019.
Now playing
01:25
Pete Buttigieg: I would ask Trump to step aside
Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren participates in a climate crisis town hall hosted by CNN in New York on September 4, 2019.
Edward M. Pio Roda/CNN
Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren participates in a climate crisis town hall hosted by CNN in New York on September 4, 2019.
Now playing
02:25
Warren: This is what fossil fuel wants us talking about
julian castro 9.4
CNN
julian castro 9.4
Now playing
03:23
Student calls out Julian Castro's record on fracking

Story highlights

An Atlantic Ocean blob is abnormally cold in a year that will probably shatter records as the warmest globally

In an area of the North Atlantic, the ocean surface is much cooler than normal

In fact, it's record cold in some locations

(CNN) —  

At first glance, it stands out like a sore thumb. That blob of blue and purple on the map. One of the only places on the globe that is abnormally cold in a year that will probably shatter records as the warmest globally.

It’s being called the Atlantic blob. It’s a large area in the North Atlantic that is seeing a pronounced cooling trend. The ocean surface is much cooler than normal and, in fact, record cold in some locations.

Scientists began to notice it developing over the last couple of years, and this cooling in the Atlantic is the complete opposite of the warming over in the Pacific. Much of the warming is attributed to El Nino, a natural process where warm water sloshes over the Central Pacific and extends to South America, but scientists are unable to completely explain what has been dubbed the Pacific blob. This pronounced warming over large areas of the entire Pacific Basin has fueled a well above average season for hurricanes and typhoons over the entire Pacific, and it could have contributed to the California drought, effects on the salmon industry and even tropical sharks seen in waters farther north than ever before.

This was Earth’s hottest summer on record

The Atlantic cold blob is near Greenland. You may not expect to see such a pronounced cooling that far north. After all, we know that most of the documented climate change has affected the poles much more than equatorial regions. Greenland is home to an enormous sheet of ice.

In fact, if you combine the ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland, you will find 99% of the fresh water ice on Earth. Scientists believe it is the melting of ice in Greenland that is causing the cold anomaly.

A recent study by top climatologists shows that massive ice loss is occurring over Greenland and is disturbing the normal Atlantic Ocean circulation, called the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation, or AMOC. You may be familiar with part of this circulation, the Gulf Stream, which brings warm, tropical surface water northward along the East Coast of the United States and funnels toward the poles. The other main current in the AMOC is a return flow of deep, cold water that runs southward from the poles toward the tropics. This current has dramatic effects on our weather globally. The heat and cold driven by the current transfer to the atmosphere and help drive our weather patterns.

May rainfall was most ever in the U.S.

Normally, cold salt water in the North Atlantic sinks, because it is denser, and it is replaced by warm water moving in from the south. A similar process drives the high and low pressure systems and jet stream that drive our weather. In this case, the study suggests that the massive amounts of fresh water melting into the ocean from Greenland can prevent the sinking of the dense, cold, salty water and alter the AMOC circulation.

Believe it or not, this was the very scenario in the popular movie “The Day After Tomorrow.” In the movie, the global climate changes in a matter of days, causing tornadoes in Los Angeles, deadly hail in Tokyo and a massive blizzard in New York City.

Fortunately “The Day After Tomorrow” scenario is Hollywood fiction at its best, and not based on sound science. That said, there is cause for concern.

While there is no scientific consensus that the Pacific and Atlantic blobs are related to climate change, there is evidence that they are. The effects of that relationship – while not like those portrayed in the movie – could still be severe. The loss of the normal ocean circulation could cause drastic shifts in weather patterns, and continued loss of ice in Greenland will lead to the continued rise in sea level, threatening coastal cities around the globe.

U.N. chief: Listen to Pope on climate action