Human-driven planetary warming threatens to collapse a system of currents in the Atlantic Ocean that regulate and impact weather across the globe, a new scientific study has found.
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, or AMOC, a section of the Gulf Stream, transports warm water from the tropics northward and cold water from the North Atlantic to the south.
This natural redistribution of heat has long worked to stabilize regional climate and weather conditions; however, scientists have been warning that the system is slowing down. A2019 United Nations report concluded that while the current is “very likely” to weaken this century, a total breakdown was unlikely.
But the new study, published Thursday in the journal Nature Climate Change, indicates the situation could be far direr than previously thought. The current changes may be tied to “an almost complete loss of stability of the AMOC over the course of the last century,” the analysis states.
“The findings support the assessment that the AMOC decline is not just a fluctuation or a linear response to increasing temperatures but likely means the approaching of a critical threshold beyond which the circulation system could collapse,”