A critical system of Atlantic Ocean currents may be on the brink of collapse, raising concerns among scientists about the potential impact on global climate. The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), responsible for transporting heat and salt through the global ocean, has shown signs of trending toward a crucial “tipping point,” according to a study published in the journal Science Advances.
The weakening of the currents’ strength by rising temperatures has long been a concern, and the study predicts devastating effects in Europe and the Amazon rainforest if a collapse were to occur. For example, some parts of Europe could see average temperatures decrease by 30 degrees Celsius over a century if the AMOC collapses. The potential changes could be felt over the course of just decades, with February temperatures in Norway dropping by 3.5 degrees Celsius per decade. The study authors note that such rapid temperature changes pose significant challenges for adaptation measures.
In 2021, a separate study published by Nature Geoscience revealed that the AMOC was at its weakest point in the last 1,000 years. The potential collapse of the system is a matter of global concern, with Peter de Menocal of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts noting that it would affect every person on the planet and is of immense importance. If this occurs, it would disrupt not only weather patterns but also marine life, food chains and ecosystems worldwide.