This could now cause significant concern.
According to a study released on Tuesday, human-caused climate change could cause the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), a significant system of ocean currents that transport warm water from the tropics into the North Atlantic, to collapse by the middle of the century or possibly at any point starting in 2025.
Such a collapse might bring about quick changes in the weather and environment in the US, Europe, and other places. If that happened, the East Coast might experience more powerful storms and hurricanes, an ice age in Europe, a sea level rise in cities like Boston and New York, and an increase in sea level.
According to the authors of the study, it may also result in significantly less rain and snowfall in the central and western United States.
The scientifically incorrect 2004 disaster film “The Day After Tomorrow,” which employed such an ocean circulation shutdown as its plot device, has been compared to earlier studies regarding the AMOC collapse.
“We estimate a collapse of the AMOC to occur around mid-century under the current scenario of future emissions,” the study’s authors wrote.
One of numerous hazardous climate “tipping points” that scientists believe are conceivable as a result of climate change is the AMOC collapse.
The author of a previous study on the subject, Niklas Boers from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, stated that the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation is in fact one of the planet’s major circulation systems.
In order to create weather, ocean water, and air are transported by the AMOC. Off the East Coast of the United States, warm, salty water travels north through the Gulf Stream from the tropics to the North Atlantic, where it cools, sinks, and then travels south.
More water is moved from the warm surface to the cooler depths as it travels more quickly.
The cycle maintains northern Europe at a higher temperature than it otherwise would and cools the ocean off the North American coast.
Studies conducted in 2018 and 2021 concluded that the AMOC could implode at some time this century.
Researchers determined that the AMOC will end with 95% certainty between 2025 and 2095 using new statistical techniques and data on ocean temperature from the previous 150 years.
“Using new and improved statistical tools, we’ve made calculations that provide a more robust estimate of when a collapse is most likely to occur, something we had not been able to do before,” said Susanne Ditlevsen, a professor at the University of Copenhagen and research co-author.
The prediction made by the researchers is supported by observations of early warning signs that ocean currents display when they start to become unstable.
The calculations go against the thesis of the most recent IPCC assessment, which states that a sudden change in the AMOC is “unlikely” to occur this century.
According to research co-author Peter Ditlevsen, also from the University of Copenhagen, “Our result underscores the importance of reducing global greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible.”
Peter and Susanne Ditlevsen, study co-authors, provided the following explanation to USA TODAY regarding how the AMOC could collapse: “Global warming brought on by greenhouse gas emissions hastens the melting of Greenland ice.
The AMOC may therefore be disturbed by the melted freshwater entering the North Atlantic, potentially leading to significant climatic changes.
The Ditlevsens stated that freshwater, which is lighter than the salty seawater nearby, gets introduced into the North Atlantic when Greenland’s enhanced meltwater increases. “This extra freshwater can interfere with the way saltwater normally sinks, weakening or even shutting off the AMOC. Significant climate changes may result if the AMOC collapses due to its far-reaching effects on weather patterns and ocean currents.
The study’s findings have received conflicting assessments from experts who were not involved in it. University of Pennsylvania professor Michael Mann stated, “I’m not sure the writers contribute anything beyond a snazzy statistical procedure. History is full of incorrect forecasts made using sophisticated statistical techniques, often too sophisticated for their own benefit.
The Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany’s Stefan Rahmstorf, meanwhile, told USA TODAY that “a single study provides little data, but when many methodologies lead to comparable conclusions, this must be regarded very carefully.
Particularly when we’re discussing a risk that we really want to completely eliminate. According to the available scientific information, it is even possible that we will cross a tipping point within the next ten or twenty years.
The latest study “adds to the evidence that the AMOC tipping point is much closer than we thought just a few years ago,” but there is still a lot of doubt about where it is.