A new scientific study, published in Nature Climate Change journal, has reportedly warned that the current system of the Atlantic Ocean, which is the engine that influences climate across the Northern Hemisphere, could be weakening owing to climate change.
According to reports, scientists warn that this could have serious consequences on the earth's climate, including severe cold in Europe and some parts of North America. Moreover, it could also lead to rising sea levels in parts of the United States.
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, more commonly referred to as AMOC, is a crucial part of the world’s expansive system of ocean currents, which is also known as the Gulf Stream.
For the uninitiated, the Gulf Stream moves warm water from the earth’s tropical regions northward to the North Atlantic. With the help of this natural atmospheric engine, warm water travels north on the surface of the ocean and cold water moves southward from the bottom of the ocean.
The Gulf Stream is particularly responsible for Europe's relatively mild temperatures. It also has an impact on weather systems all over the world.
Niklas Boers, the author of the study from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, stated that the reduction of dynamical stability implies that the AMOC has approached its critical threshold. Boers added that beyond this threshold, significant and likely irreversible switch to the weak mode might occur.
As the earth warms due to rising levels of carbon emissions, the ocean surface beneath starts to retains more heat. According to the study, a system collapse could have serious consequences for the world's weather systems.
According to the United Kingdom’s Met Office, the collapse of the AMOC would result in increased cooling within the Northern Hemisphere, rising sea levels within the Atlantic, a general decrease in precipitation over North America and Europe, and a shift in monsoons across Africa and South America.
The UN had warned back in April that the world is on the verge of a catastrophic climate crisis, with Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urging countries to end the war on nature.
Climate change has been blamed for causing extreme weather events across the world in recent months and weeks. This includes the deadly wildfires that have hit Greece and Turkey, and the severe floods that have been seen across many countries in Asia, including the most recent one in China, which took more than 300 lives.
The AMOC has already been shown to be at its weakest in over 1,000 years by climate models. However, it’s unclear whether the deterioration is due to a loss of stability or a change in circulation.