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Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) Losing Stability

Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC)

A study published in Nature Climate Change notes that the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), is losing its stability. According to the IPCC’s Report (AR6) released on August 9, it is very likely that AMOC will decline over the 21st century.

  • The AMOC is a large system of ocean currents. It is the Atlantic branch of the ocean conveyor belt or Thermohaline circulation (THC), and distributes heat and nutrients throughout the world’s ocean basins.
  • AMOC carries warm surface waters from the tropics towards the Northern Hemisphere, where it cools and sinks. It then returns to the tropics and then to the South Atlantic as a bottom current. From there it is distributed to all ocean basins via the Antarctic circumpolar current.
  • 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.
  • Gulf Stream, a part of the AMOC, is a warm current responsible for mild climate at the Eastern coast of North America as well as Europe. Without a proper AMOC and Gulf Stream, Europe will be very cold.
  • Modelling studies have shown that an AMOC shutdown would cool the northern hemisphere and decrease rainfall over Europe. It can also have an effect on the El Nino.