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New Study Warns of Potential Collapse in Atlantic Ocean Current, Threatening Colder World

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Typically the first thing you think of when talking about climate change is global warming, and while rising temperatures in the ocean as well as the air around us are both valid concerns, they aren’t the only climate issue on the radar. A recent study is showing that the Atlantic Ocean could potentially be getting colder. Many may not think that a decrease in temperature may not be as concerning as an increase in temp, it actually could be even more dangerous.

The Circulation Of The Atlantic Meridional Is Overturning

The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, also known as AMOC, is half of the Atlantics conveyor belt, and the other half is called the Southern Ocean Overturning Circulation.

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Both of them are composed of several different currents, both large and small, but the AMOC is mostly responsible for transferring warmer waters from the southern tropics to the North Atlantic.

The Significance Of Currents In The Ocean

Before we dive into the newest information, it is important to understand just how the currents of the world work and what makes them such a vital aspect of the ocean.

Source: Unsplash/Aaron Burden

Even Though they aren’t visible from the surface of the water, deep below, there are multiple gigantic currents that are a part of the oceans on our planet. Think of these currents as rivers that run constantly in the ocean, transferring warm and cold water in all different directions. Together they create one big global conveyor belt, which has a vital role in the climate of our planet.

The AMOC Is Absolutely Vital

The AMOC plays a crucial role to life on planet earth, it carries important nutrients to all ocean life, brings warm water to various coasts, and makes sure the North Atlantic waters remain frigidly cold.

Source: Wikipedia

Despite how the AMOC functions, as the temperature of the weather and water above the surface, and as the overall climate of the planet changes, so will the AMOC’s multiple currents

What Is Causing The AMOC To Weaken?

The weakening of the AMOC system is attributed to the temperature and atmospheric changes, as these changes have a direct effect on the salinity, and ultimately the density of the ocean’s water.

Source: researchgate

A climatologist and oceanographer from the National Research Center named Sandro Carniel explained, “The colder and saltier the water is, the greater its density, and the easier it is for its mass to sink. Whereas if the water is warm and fresh (i.e., not salty), it is lighter and therefore stays at the surface more.”

The Change In Climate Could Weaken Or Even Collapse The AMOC

It has become blatantly obvious that this change in climate could potentially weaken or even completely collapse the AMOC in the very near future.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

As the fresh water continues to increase in the Arctic from melting ice sheets, and the temperatures in the ocean and air rise, the changes to the way the AMOC functions are inevitable. The general consensus of many scientists is that all of these climate changes could have significant effects on the planet as well as the people who live on it, and in just a few decades.

Some Speculate That The AMOC Is Just A Decade Away From Collapse

As it is with any scientific discovery, there is an ongoing debate amongst experts as to when the AMOC might collapse, or what could happen to it in general.

Source: Unsplash/Rostyslav Savchyn

While some contend that there isn’t nearly enough evidence to suggest when the AMOC will weaken to the point of its collapse leading to dangerous consequences for the world. Others make the argument that this could happen within the next decade.

Consequences Of The AMOC Collapsing

Multiple scientists explain what it could mean for the planet as the AMOC continues to slow down.

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The first area to be the most affected by this occurring is likely to be the coastal areas in Northwestern Europe, and eventually the entire continent will have a significant drop in temperature. The next to be affected will be the rainforest of the southern hemisphere, the area would see a noteworthy decrease in their rainfall. Finally, the sea levels along the coasts of the Atlantic could rise by tens of centimeters.

The AMOC Has Significantly Weakened From It’s Previous State

It is worth noting that those who study the AMOC are undeniably certain that the vital current system has already weakened significantly even from just a hundred years ago.

Source: Unsplash/Patrick Hendry

According to the research, the AMOC is considerably weaker than it was prior to the industrial revolution in the first half of the 18th century. If the currents continue to get weaker at the speed they have been for the past 250 or so years, there will without a doubt be a “point of no return.”

How Is The World Getting Colder And Hotter At The Simultaneously?

For many years scientists have been warning people about global warming,explaining that if the climate gets too hot it will render the planet inhabitable for humans. Now they are stating that if the AMOC collapses the world will become frigidly cold instead of unbearably hot.

Source: Adobe Stock

Despite these conclusions seeming contradictory, the end result is virtually the same. Climate change is having a profound effect on the planet’s natural rhythms and eventually it will cause drastic changes in land structure, temperature, and ultimately life itself.

The AMOC Has Previously Collapsed

Thanks to thorough research, scientists are aware that the AMOC has experienced a collapse before, the result of this was the 1,000 year long ice age. Approximately 12,900 years ago a huge frozen lake called Lake Agassiz melted completely and dumped a large amount of freshwater into the ocean.

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Scientists believe it was this event that led to the frozen period known as the Younger Dryas, during this time the continents of North America and Europe were virtually covered in ice.

Can The AMOC Be Saved From Collapse?

Thankfully, the solution to stopping the planet from overheating or freezing is the same. Humans need to be accountable and decrease or even completely stop greenhouse gas emissions sooner rather than later.

Source: Unsplash/Li-An Lim

If we don’t, the planet as we know it will cease to exist, and a lot sooner than we would expect. If not from another ice age caused by the AMOC collapsing, then from an uptick in global heat, both as scary as the other.

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Athena Hallet

Written by Athena Hallet

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