What will happen to the UK if the Gulf Stream collapses in 2025? Scientists warn Britain would be plunged into a deep freeze – with winter conditions up to 15°C colder than usual

It’s been 20 years since The Day After Tomorrow hit cinemas – and now scientists have warned that its terrifying plot could soon become a reality

The film portrays an enormous ‘superstorm’ triggered by the collapse of the Gulf Stream, which sets off catastrophic natural disasters and ushers a new Ice Age on Earth. 

In the blockbuster, characters are frozen under layers of snow, drowned in massive tsunamis and dramatically crushed under vehicles thrown by tornados.

But what would actually happen here in the UK if the Gulf Stream collapsed?

Speaking to MailOnline, experts revealed how Britain would be plunged into a deep freeze – with winter conditions up to 15°C colder than usual.

In the Hollywood blockbuster The Day After Tomorrow (pictured), ocean currents around the world stop as a result of global warming, triggering a new ice age on Earth

In the Hollywood blockbuster The Day After Tomorrow (pictured), ocean currents around the world stop as a result of global warming, triggering a new ice age on Earth

In the blockbuster, characters are frozen under layers of snow, drowned in massive tsunamis and dramatically crushed under vehicles thrown by tornados

In the blockbuster, characters are frozen under layers of snow, drowned in massive tsunamis and dramatically crushed under vehicles thrown by tornados

The Gulf Stream is part of a much wider system of currents, officially called the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), which scientists say could collapse as early as 2025.

Described as ‘the conveyor belt of the ocean’, the AMOC transports warm water near the ocean’s surface northwards from the tropics up to the northern hemisphere. 

Here in the UK, its collapse would cause temperatures to plummet, according to Professor David Thornalley, a climate scientist at University College London

‘Unfortunately people would die due to stronger winter storms and flooding, and many old and young would be vulnerable to the very cold winter temperatures,’ he told MailOnline. 

Jonathan Bamber, a professor of Earth observation at the University of Bristol, agreed that if the AMOC were to collapse, the climate of northwest Europe would be ‘unrecognisable compared to what it is today’.

‘It would be several degrees cooler so that winters would be more typical of Arctic Canada,’ he told MailOnline.

Rene van Westen, a climate scientist and oceanographer at Utrecht University, predicts that in the summer, UK temperatures will be about 5.4°F to 9°F (3°C to 5°C) lower than they are now.

AMOC collapse: It would change weather worldwide because it means a shutdown of one of key the climate and ocean forces of the planet. It would plunge northwestern European temperatures by 9 to 27 degrees (5 to 15 degrees Celsius) over the decades

AMOC collapse: It would change weather worldwide because it means a shutdown of one of key the climate and ocean forces of the planet. It would plunge northwestern European temperatures by 9 to 27 degrees (5 to 15 degrees Celsius) over the decades

Formally known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), it powers the Gulf Stream that brings warm water from the Gulf of Mexico to the northeastern US coast

Formally known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), it powers the Gulf Stream that brings warm water from the Gulf of Mexico to the northeastern US coast

Why could the AMOC collapse? 

Scientists think melting glaciers could cause the collapse of the AMOC, the system of ocean currents. 

Described as ‘the conveyor belt of the ocean’, the AMOC transports warm water near the ocean’s surface northwards – from the tropics up to the northern hemisphere.

Prior studies have already shown that due to climate change, the AMOC is slowing down. 

The engine of this conveyor belt is off the coast of Greenland, where, as more ice melts from climate change , more freshwater flows into the North Atlantic and slows everything down. 

Meanwhile, winter temperatures could be 18°F to 27°F (10°C to 15°C) lower on average, although certain parts of Britain would bear the brunt of it. 

For example, if the yearly average surface temperature over London fell by 12.6°F (7°C), the temperature change would larger (down to -21.6°F/-12°C) further northward, such as in Scotland, van Westen said.

However the effects in the UK would be minor compared to other regions, according to Professor Thornalley. 

Elsewhere around the world, a collapse of the AMOC would cause a shift in the tropical rainfall belt – an area of rainfall that is positioned around the tropics.

‘[This] would massively disrupt agriculture and water supplies across huge swathes of the globe,’ said Professor Thornalley.

‘Many millions would be affected and suffer from drought, famine and flooding, in countries that are already struggling to deal with these issues.

‘There would be huge numbers of climate refugees and geopolitical tensions would rise.’

According to the new study, the AMOC has recently shown signs of trending toward a crucial ‘tipping point’, at which a collapse would soon follow. 

When exactly this tipping point may occur is uncertain, although it could be a matter of decades, rather than centuries as previously assumed. 

‘At the moment we can not say anything about the distance to an abrupt AMOC collapse (i.e., The Day After Tomorrow scenario),’ van Westen told MailOnline. 

‘Our analysis only suggests that we are moving towards the tipping point.’ 

If the AMOC collapses, in the UK people would die due to stronger winter storms and flooding, and many old and young would be vulnerable to the very cold winter temperatures. Pictured: a flooded street in Alconbury Weston in Cambridgeshire this month

If the AMOC collapses, in the UK people would die due to stronger winter storms and flooding, and many old and young would be vulnerable to the very cold winter temperatures. Pictured: a flooded street in Alconbury Weston in Cambridgeshire this month 

A collapse of the AMOC would cause a shift in the tropical rainfall belt - an area of rainfall that is positioned around the tropics

A collapse of the AMOC would cause a shift in the tropical rainfall belt – an area of rainfall that is positioned around the tropics

In ‘The Day After Tomorrow’, a collapse in the AMOC takes place over a matter of days and the fictional weather immediately switches to extreme cold so the characters are completely unprepared. 

Thankfully, such a rapid transition will not happen in real life, said Penny Holliday, head of marine physics and ocean circulation at the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton. 

‘If the AMOC does reach a tipping point it will happen over several decades at least,’ she told MailOnline.

‘However a slowdown of the AMOC, whether it is fast-acting or takes place over many decades, will lead to the generation of more extreme and violent weather systems that have the potential to cause deaths and major damage.’   

Is ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ an accurate portrayal of the future?  

Paleoclimate records constructed from Greenland ice cores have revealed that AMOC circulation has, indeed, shut down in the past and caused regional climate change, according to the University of Illinois.

It caused the area around Greenland to cool by 44 degrees Fahrenheit.

In the 2004 film ‘The Day After Tomorrow,’ New York City’s temperature dramatically dropped to a point that a deep freeze appeared within a day.

Even a second outside and the movie’s characters would freeze to death.

Scientists say the film plays up the shift, which would take decades to see, but note temperatures would dramatically decrease along the eastern US coast.

In the 2004 film ‘The Day After Tomorrow,’ New York City’s temperature dramatically dropped to a point that a deep freeze appeared within a day. Scientists say the film plays up the shift, which would take decades to see, but note temperatures would dramatically decrease along the eastern US coast

In the 2004 film ‘The Day After Tomorrow,’ New York City’s temperature dramatically dropped to a point that a deep freeze appeared within a day. Scientists say the film plays up the shift, which would take decades to see, but note temperatures would dramatically decrease along the eastern US coast

Winters would become colder and storms more frequent that would linger longer throughout the year if the AMOC would come to a halt today.

However, scientist say it isn’t the cold temperatures that we should prepare for, it will be the rise in sea levels that will have the largest impact.

The increase would be caused by water piling up along the east coast that would have been pushed away by the northward surface flow.

But with AMOC weakened, or at a stop, experts say sea levels around the North Atlantic Basin could experience a rise up to nearly 20 inches.

This would eventually push people living along the coast from their homes and further inland to escape flooding.

A weakened AMOC would also decrease the amount of rainfalls in the North Atlantic that would cause intense droughts in areas that rarely experience such events.