A crucial system of ocean currents may already be on course to collapse, according to a new report, with alarming implications for sea level rise and global weather — leading temperatures to plunge dramatically in some regions and rise in others.
Using exceptionally complex and expensive computing systems, scientists found a new way to detect an early warning signal for the collapse of these currents, according to the study published Friday in the journal Science Advances. And as the planet warms, there are already indications it is heading in this direction.
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (the AMOC) — of which the Gulf Stream is part — works like a giant global conveyor belt, taking warm water from the tropics toward the far North Atlantic, where the water cools, becomes saltier and sinks deep into the ocean, before spreading southward.
The currents carry heat and nutrients to different areas of the globe and play a vital role in keeping the climate of large parts of the Northern Hemisphere relatively mild.