A critical system of Atlantic Ocean currents may be approaching collapse, which scientists warn will have a dangerous impact on our global climate. The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), which is responsible for transporting heat and salt through the global ocean, has shown signs of trending toward a crucial “tipping point.” Scientists have been warning of the potential collapse for decades, as rising temperatures have weakened the currents’ strength and disrupted their balance.
A recent study published in Science Advances offers no timetable for when an AMOC collapse could occur, but its effects could be devastating. If the AMOC collapses, some regions of Europe could see average temperatures decrease by 30 degrees Celsius over a century. While this may seem like a long time, scientists say the changes would be felt over just decades. For example, February temperatures in Norway could drop by 3.5 degrees Celsius per decade. No realistic adaptation measures can deal with such rapid temperature changes.
In addition to Europe, the Amazon rainforest could also experience drastic changes in precipitation patterns if the AMOC collapses. The dry season would become the wet season and vice versa, severely disrupting the ecosystem of the Amazon rainforest. In 2021, a separate study published by Nature Geoscience determined that the AMOC was at its weakest point in the last 1,000 years. If it were to collapse entirely, it would affect every person on Earth – it’s that big and important,” said Peter de Menocal, president of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts to CNN.