In addition to all climate problems that the planet has ongoing now, there is one more to add – the Gulf stream system could be changing in ways that could dramatically affect the climate in Europe, and around the world.
According to scientific research, The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), a system of ocean currents that influences weather patterns globally and is responsible for the mild climate in Europe, is showing signs of stability loss.
The AMOC, a system that exchanges warm and cold water masses in the ocean, may have become less stable during the past century, said Niklas Boers of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) in Germany, writing in the journal Nature Climate Change.
The AMOC transports warm water from the tropics northwards, near to the ocean's surface, while it brings cold water southwards, deeper below the surface.
As the AMOC redistributes heat, it influences weather patterns globally. A collapse would substantially cool Europe and have a strong impact on the tropical monsoon systems.
The flow is currently weaker than at any time in the past 1,000 years, according to Boers.
However, it is unclear whether this is just a change in its circulation state or a significant loss of stability. There is a crucial difference, Boers said in a statement released by the institute.
If the circulation system were to become less stable, that would mean the AMOC is approaching a critical threshold beyond which the circulation system could collapse.
Boers looked at the temperature and salinity of the Atlantic surface in search of answers to these questions.
A detailed analysis of these fingerprints in eight independent indices now suggests that the weakening of the AMOC over the last century is indeed likely associated with a loss of stability, he said.
Factors affecting the current include the melting of the Greenland ice sheet, melting Arctic sea ice and overall enhanced precipitation and river runoff.
Boers said he would not have expected that the quantities of freshwater would generate such a reaction.
A more detailed study of these factors is needed but it is clear that they are linked to human-made climate change.
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