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Key ocean water flow, vital in regulating weather, could be on brink of collapse

8 17 113

New research has found that a globe-spanning ocean flow that helps regulate temperatures around the world could be on the brink of collapsing into instability, a development that would impact weather from South America to Europe and possibly cause summer showers in Israel.

The study found that over the past 100 years there has been “an almost complete loss of stability” in the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation, or AMOC, a flow of sea from the south to the north that includes the Gulf Stream.

The AMOC delivers warm water from the tropics to the north and brings cooler, saltier water to the south, distributing heat and energy around the world while also stirring the oceans. Climate scientists, observing a slowdown in the rate of flow, are already worried that the AMOC could pass a critical threshold after which it would sink into instability, with weak circulation halting the necessary flows.

In a paper published last Thursday in Nature Climate Change, researcher Niklas Boers from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany said that the system could be close to reaching that point.

“We urgently need to reconcile our models with the presented observational evidence to assess how far from or how close to its critical threshold the AMOC really is,” Boers said in a statement from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

The AMOC is already known to adopt two speeds at different periods. It is either fast and strong — the state it has been in over the past few thousand years — or at a slow, weak pace. It is currently at its weakest in more than a thousand years, the statement said.

Rising temperatures can cause a rapid change from one speed to the other, Boer’s study found.


© The Times of Israel

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