If you are sat in a cold bath and turn on the hot tap, what happens? The water close to your feet becomes unbearably hot and the water near the top half of your body doesn’t noticeably change temperature. Fundamentally, the same process happens in the oceans. The sea nearest to the equator heats up as it receives the highest amount of energy from the sun; the sea nearest to the poles generally loses heat. In the bath, you slosh the water about as it enters the tub to distribute the heat more evenly. In the oceans, currents perform the same job, helping to move heat from the equator to the poles and make higher latitudes more habitable. If, for some reason, the currents transporting heat to higher latitudes slowed, the effect would be similar to you not mixing your bath water. Your feet (the equator and tropics) would become hotter, and your body (the subtropics and poles) would become colder. This is exactly what scientists think they observed in 2009/2010 in the North Atlantic, and they think this may explain some of the freak weather that was observed during that period.
After last month’s population milestone caused a lot of chatter about the consequences of continual unchecked population growth, there is no better time than now to begin considering where we’re meant to house people when space gets tight. Admittedly the problem is more about consumption and waste production than it is about physical space, but ideas for branching out and inhabiting new areas should be explored…and some, like this one, are downright amusing. A skyscraper competition in 2010 (via http://www.evolo.us/competition/water-scraper-underwater-architecture/; see image below) fuelled the imagination of some well-meaning architects, highlighting the idea of a self-sustaining floating city of sorts: the hO2+ scraper (which I assume is supposed to translate to waterscraper…shudder).