Often popularly referred to as the Gulf Stream. The portion of the North-Atlantic gyre that lies east of 45° W, flowing towards Europe. A branch passes between Iceland and the British Isles northeastward into the Arctic Ocean, where it becomes the Norwegian Current. Its temperature is some 5 deg C above average for its latitude and, by warming the prevailing southwesterly winds, it is thus a major factor in the mild climate of northwestern Europe. It has been suggested that it weakened in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. This, together with an extension of Arctic surface water farther south—Iceland was surrounded by pack ice—may have contributed to the Little Ice Age.
Subjects: Meteorology and Climatology.