Findings of two new studies have revealed that the Atlantic ocean current has significantly slowed down and is currently at its slowest pace in 1,600 years.
Ocean Currents And Global Warming
The researchers attribute the slowing down of the current known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation to global warming.
"This weakening is revealed by a characteristic spatial and seasonal sea-surface temperature 'fingerprint'," Stefan Rahmstorf, from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, and colleagues wrote in one of the studies published in the journal Nature.
"We find this fingerprint both in a high-resolution climate model in response to increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, and in the temperature trends observed since the late nineteenth century. "
Effects Of A Weak AMOC Circulation
The so-called "conveyor belt of the ocean" plays an important role in regulating global temperatures and the phenomenon is feared to have serious consequences. AMOC transports heat around the globe and if this movement stops, the heat would not be distributed.
Delia Oppo, from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and one of the authors of the other study that was also published in the journal Nature, said that a complete disintegration of the AMOC is unlikely but the ocean circulation system will likely continue to weaken.
A collapse in the AMOC could also mean there would be less heat reaching western Europe that could cause the region to plunge into severe winters, the kind of scenario similar to that depicted, albeit in extreme fashion, in the movie The Day After Tomorrow. A weaker AMOC could also increase summer heat waves.
Researchers also said that a significantly weakened system may cause more severe storms in Europe and a faster rise in sea levels on the U.S. east coast. Significant changes in the circulation of the ocean could likewise impact fisheries in the United States that can be devastated by warming waters, thereby affecting livelihood and food source.
The ocean becomes less effective at absorbing carbon dioxide with a weakened AMOC and this can lead to higher quantities of the greenhouse gas in the atmosphere worsening global warming.
Stop Global Warming To Avoid AMOC Disruption
Researchers said that the potential effect of disrupting AMOC is one of the reasons to do something about climate change.
"We should avoid disrupting the Amoc at all costs," Rahmstorf said. "It is one more reason why we should stop global warming as soon as possible."