Study warns that a key Atlantic Ocean current system may collapse

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A large system of ocean currents in the Atlantic, including the Gulf Stream, has been affected due to human-caused climate change. In a new study published in the journal Nature, scientists warn that if that system collapses, it would lead to dramatic changes in global weather patterns.

In their research, the experts analyzed the Atlantic South Overturning Circulation (AMOC) that carries warm and salty water from the tropics northward on the ocean surface and cold water southward at the bottom of the ocean. ocean.

According to the study’s lead author, Niklas Boers from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (Germany), it is about of “one of the key circulation systems of our planet”. Therefore, a possible collapse of the AMOC would have serious consequences at the global level.

If this circulation weakens to a critical point, it could bring extreme cold to Europe and parts of North America, raise sea levels along the east coast of the United States, and disrupt the seasonal monsoons that provide water to much of it. of the world. It would also further endanger the Amazon rainforest and the Antarctic ice sheets.

Climate models have shown that the AMOC is in its weakest point in more than 1,000 years. However, it is not known whether the weakening is due to a change in circulation or loss of stability.

“The difference is crucial,” said Boers, “because the loss of dynamic stability would imply that the AMOC has approached its critical threshold, beyond which a substantial and in practice probably irreversible transition to weak mode could occur.”

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The study shows that the interruption of the AMOC could occur due to a series of factors, which add to the direct effect of the warming of the Atlantic Ocean. These include freshwater inflow from the melting of the Greenland ice sheet, melting sea ice, increased rainfall, and runoff from rivers.

Other climate models have said that the AMOC will weaken over the next century, but that a collapse before 2,100 is unlikely, Reuters review. The lead author of the study assured The Washington Post que “is one of those events that shouldn’t happen, and we should do everything possible to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as quickly as possible. “

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