A study has found that the Atlantic Ocean’s current system will collapse due to climate change. The system is an engine of the Northern Hemisphere’s climate.

As the largest system of ocean currents, the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) transport warm water into the North Atlantic.

The surface under the ocean stores more heat as the atmosphere continue warming due to the rise in greenhouse gas emissions. A collapse in the system would mess with the world’s weather systems.

According to climate models, the AMOC is currently at its weakest point in 1,000 years. The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, claimed that whether the weakening in the system is caused by a change in circulation or the loss of stability is crucial.

“The loss of dynamical stability would imply that the AMOC has approached its critical threshold, beyond which a substantial and in practice likely irreversible transition to the weak mode could occur,” said Niklas Boers at the Potstdam Insitute for Climate Impact Research and author of the study.

Analyses of the sea-surface temperature and salinity patterns of the Atlantic Ocean showed that the weakening over the last century was caused by a loss of stability

“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,” Boers continued.

According to Britain’s Met Office, the collapse of the AMOC would cause an increase in cooling of the Northern Hemisphere, sea-level rise in the Atlantic, an increase in rainfall in Europe and North America, and a shift in monsoons in South America and Africa.

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Climate models have shown that the AMOC will continue weakening. However, a collapse before the 2100s is not likely to happen.

Climate change

Climate change includes both global warming driven by human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases and the resulting large-scale shifts in weather patterns. (wikipedia)

Gulf Stream

The Gulf Stream, together with its northern extension the North Atlantic Drift, is a warm and swift Atlantic ocean current that originates in the Gulf of Mexico and stretches to the tip of Florida, (wikipedia)

Atlantic Ocean

The Atlantic Ocean is the second-largest of the world’s oceans, with an area of about 106,460,000 km2 . (wikipedia)

Atlantic meridional overturning circulation

The Atlantic meridional overturning circulation is the zonally integrated component of surface and deep currents in the Atlantic Ocean. It is characterized by a northward flow of warm, (wikipedia)

Multiple equilibria in the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation

The Atlantic meridional overturning circulation is a large system of ocean currents, like a conveyor belt. (wikipedia)

Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research

The Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research is a German government-funded research institute addressing crucial scientific questions in the fields of global change, climate impacts, (wikipedia)