Collapse in Atlantic Ocean currents could speed up climate change

Event could take place any period between 2025 and 2095
Collapse in Atlantic Ocean currents could speed up climate change
Atlantic Ocean

Researchers are finding that the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), a system of ocean currents keeping northern latitudes warm, could possibly collapse mid-century. This could have dire effects on climate change, like a rise in sea levels and extreme weather. 

The latest study, authored by researchers from Denmark and published in Nature Communications, foresees “significant climate repercussions in the North Atlantic area” if the collapse were to take place.

The Amoc circulation system circulates warm water throughout the Atlantic. According to the research, without the AMOC, Scandinavia could experience a climate similar to that of Alaska. The current not only drives the Atlantic’s streams but is also a huge determinant in Western Europe’s weather. 

Furthermore, warmer areas would experience amplified effects of climate change. Tropical areas would experience an abundance of heat, on top of global warming. More extreme weather, greater risks of storms, and changed precipitation patterns would also affect tropical areas. 

Read more: MENA Oceans: Deep diving into sustainability goals in fight against climate change

AMOC’s effect on climate

According to the online briefing document from the UK’s Met Office, the AMOC is influenced by seawater density, which is impacted by temperature and salt concentration. Currently, warm water from the tropical regions travels northward into the North Atlantic, where it cools down and undergoes evaporation, resulting in an elevation of salt content, as explained by the organization.

This increased density causes the water to sink to considerable depths before flowing southwards, well beneath the ocean’s surface, and eventually resurfacing. Increased temperatures and increased rainfall could weaken the Amoc, eventually reducing the strength of the circulation. 

Researchers are predicting the happening from any period between 2025 until 2095. The research looks at 150 years of temperature records. Although there are limited records of information on AMOC, the stream has collapsed and reformed several times as a result of ice ages. The last time this was recorded was about 12,000 to 115,000 years ago. 

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