The study discovered that the circulation of the Atlantic Ocean is approaching a critical point that could have severe consequences.
A recent study has discovered that the Atlantic Ocean’s circulation is approaching a critical threshold, which could have negative consequences for both the climate and humanity.
The researchers expressed surprise at how quickly the collapse would occur once the point is reached. However, they noted that it is currently impossible to determine the exact timing of this event.
The scientists utilized computer simulations and historical information to create a preliminary signal for the potential collapse of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (Amoc), a large network of ocean currents crucial for maintaining global climate stability.
Researchers discovered that Amoc is currently heading towards a sudden change, something that has not occurred in over 10,000 years and could have severe consequences for many regions of the globe.
The Amoc is a marine conveyor belt that transports heat, carbon, and nutrients from the tropics to the Arctic Circle. It plays a crucial role in distributing energy around the globe and moderating the effects of human-induced global warming.
However, the system is deteriorating due to the accelerated melting of glaciers in Greenland and the Arctic, resulting in an influx of freshwater into the ocean and hindering the sinking of warmer, saltier water from the south.
According to previous studies, the Amoc has experienced a 15% decrease since 1950 and is currently in its most vulnerable state in over a thousand years. This has led to speculation about a potential collapse.
Previously, there has been disagreement regarding the severity of this issue. According to a study from last year that looked at changes in sea surface temperatures, it was predicted that the tipping point could occur sometime between 2025 and 2095. However, the UK Met Office has stated that significant and sudden changes in Amoc are not expected to occur in the 21st century.
A recent study, published in Science Advances, has made a significant discovery by examining potential indicators in the salinity levels of the southern Atlantic Ocean, spanning from Cape Town to Buenos Aires. Through computer models of the Earth’s climate over a 2,000-year period, researchers observed that a gradual decrease in salinity could result in a rapid collapse within a span of less than 100 years, leading to disastrous effects.
According to the paper, the findings offer a definitive response to the question of whether a sudden change in the Amoc (Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation) is possible. This is concerning for both the climate and humanity, as it was previously believed that Amoc tipping was simply a theoretical idea and would not occur once all the complexities of the climate system and its feedbacks were taken into account.
The collapse of Amoc would lead to various effects. Some coastal cities would experience a rise in sea levels of about one meter, resulting in flooding. The Amazon’s wet and dry seasons would switch, possibly pushing the already weakened rainforest to its tipping point. Temperatures worldwide would become more unpredictable. The southern hemisphere would become warmer, while Europe would cool significantly and receive less rainfall. While this may seem desirable compared to the current warming trend, these changes would occur at a much faster rate, making it almost impossible to adapt.
The speed at which tipping happens was unexpected, according to the main author of the paper, René van Westen from Utrecht University. This could have a catastrophic impact.
According to him, there is currently insufficient data to predict if this will happen in the next year or within the next century. However, once it does occur, the effects will be permanent and cannot be reversed within a human lifetime.
Currently, the course of action is undeniably concerning.
Van Westen expressed concern about the direction we are heading and emphasized the importance of taking climate change seriously.