The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) sea currents are responsible for transporting heat from the tropics to the Northern Hemisphere. However, new research suggests that climate change might stop the AMOC currents pretty soon.
If the AMOC currents stopped, there would be profound changes in weather, agriculture, biodiversity, and the economy in huge areas of the world.
Researchers’ new models suggest that the speed of temperature increase we are currently seeing on Earth means the risk of hitting the tipping point for the AMOC going dormant is now an urgent concern.
“It is worrying news,” says physicist Johannes Lohmann, from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. “Because if this is true, it reduces our safe operating space.”
Lohmann and his colleague Peter Ditlevsen used an existing ocean climate change model to study the consequences.
The model showed that a faster rate of freshwater change could cancel out the AMOC much sooner.
The AMOC redistributes water and heat around the Northern Hemisphere as the water’s temperature, saltiness, and relative weight fluctuates. It’s part of the reason that European winters are relatively mild, even at higher latitudes.