The Coriolis effect, the Antarctic feedback circulation and the new ocean in Africa
As a result of the Coriolis effect – a force affecting the atmosphere as the Earth rotates faster at the equator than at the poles – no hurricane has ever crossed the equator, and storms and air currents bend to the right in the northern hemisphere and to the left in the southern hemisphere. At the same time, due to climate change, rising ocean and air temperatures and rising sea levels due to melting sea ice, scientists are forecasting increasingly powerful and destructive hurricanes in both hemispheres of the planet.
The East African Rift in Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania is now the nucleus of a rift in the middle of Africa that will become an oceanic isthmus million of years from now. As a result of the movement of tectonic plates, the first oceanic rift, about 5 km narrow, could form there in 50 000 to 100 000 years. This will happen much faster due to the melting of the ice caps caused by climate warming and a 20-30 m sea level rise in the next 500 years.
Melting ice in Antarctica raises sea levels and slows the circulation of deep-sea currents that feed surface waters with nutrients from the seabed. By 2050, this Antarctic overturning circulation will likely slow down by 42% unless the world moves away from fossil fuels and stops producing planet-warming pollution. This slowdown will, in turn, accelerate the melting of the ice and potentially end the functioning of the ocean system that has helped sustain life in the world’s oceans for thousands of years.