Man-made global warming threatens to collapse a system of currents in the Atlantic Ocean that regulates and impacts weather across the world, according to a new scientific study.
The Atlantic Meridional Reversal Circulation, or AMOC, a section of the Gulf Stream, carries warm water from the tropics to the north and cold water from the North Atlantic to the south.
This natural redistribution of heat has long worked to stabilize regional climatic and meteorological conditions; however, scientists have warned that the system is slowing down. A 2019 United Nations report concluded that while the power is “very likely” to weaken this century, a blackout was unlikely.
But the new study, published Thursday in the journal Nature Climate Change, indicates that the situation could be much more serious than previously thought. The current changes may be linked to “an almost complete loss of stability in AMOC over the past century,” the analysis says.
“The results support the assessment that the decline in AMOC is not only a fluctuation or linear response to increasing temperatures, but likely signifies the approach of a critical threshold beyond which the system traffic could collapse, “Niklas Boers, a researcher at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany and the study’s author, said in a statement.
A crippled Atlantic Current system could trigger catastrophic and potentially irreversible changes, ranging from rising seas in North America to major disruption of seasonal monsoon rains in Asia and South America.
“The mere possibility that the AMOC tipping point is near should be enough motivation for us to take countermeasures,” Levke Caesar, climate physicist at Maynooth University of Ireland, told the Washington Post. “The consequences of a collapse would likely be far-reaching.”
The study precedes a major report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, the main consortium of researchers studying human-caused temperature increases. The assessment, scheduled for August 9 and written by more than 200 scientists, will provide an up-to-date understanding of the crisis and its current and future effects around the world.
There is no way to determine the level of greenhouse gas emissions that would cause AMOC to collapse altogether, Boers told The Guardian. “The only thing to do,” he said, “is to keep emissions as low as possible. The likelihood of this extremely high impact event occurring increases with every gram of CO2 we release into the atmosphere. . “
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