A new report suggests that the currents in the Atlantic Ocean are at the slowest pace they’ve been in 1000 years – largely due to the effects of global warming.
Global warming has already had marked effects on our environment, and it appears as if these changes show no sign of slowing down. The currents in the Atlantic Ocean serve as a sort of conveyor belt, transporting water of different temperatures around the world in order to keep our oceans functioning as they should. The fact that the currents are being slowed so significantly is worrying, as it can lead to extreme climates in several areas around the world.
While this no doubt spells trouble for aquatic environments, it can also cause major trouble for us here on land – leading to harsher winters and more dangerous storms in the near future. The currents in the Atlantic Ocean – also known as the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) has continually wreaked throughout the 20th century by around 15 percent – coinciding the rise of global warming as human impact wreaks havoc on our planet’s environment.
This is all due to the way AMOC functions. By bringing warm equatorial surface water back to the northern tundra and then carrying the cool water back to the equatorial belt, the Atlantic Ocean currents manage to keep temperatures somewhat regular throughout the area that it covers. By warming the tundra waters and cooling the waters at the equator, these currents manage to make the oceans much more docile – saving us from serious weather effects and harsh environments here on Earth. While the cooling of the currents might not be severe enough to cause major issues at this point in time, as the effects of global warming continue to increase, we could see more storms and other weather disasters as time goes on and our climates become more and more extreme.
Many are wondering how exactly global warming has contributed to a reduction in speed. It would make sense that the waters would heat up due to global warming, and that is indeed a problem, but the main issue with the Atlantic Ocean currents comes from the water’s density.
In order to allow warm water to move fast, it must be of a certain density. Because warm water is less dense, it moves to the surface of the ocean and flows freely. The issue arises when global warming causes ice to melt rapidly in Greenland and Arctic regions, actually making water much colder due to the icy freshwater entering the Atlantic Ocean and slowing the speed of the “conveyor belt” overall.
This influx of cold water due to global warming will mean climate regulation may not take place in the way that it should. We should see more extreme climates change. Bad weather is the least of our issues, with Europe soon seeing increasingly harsh winters and the East coast of the United States potentially starting to be covered in water as sea levels continue to rise.
The study that discovered the fact that the currents were slowing in the Atlantic Ocean due to the effects of global warming was carried out by a team of scientists from Germany in the UK, and serves as an update to a NASA report back in 2010 where the team found that the AMOC was not slowing down. This means that in the last 8 years, global warming has become such an issue that our climates could be irreparably damaged.
We’re already seeing the effects of global warming with the changing of seasons and the destruction of habitats for sensitive species around the world, and the problems will only get worse unless we take swift action to address problems like we’re seeing in the Atlantic Ocean and try to stave off the currently-inevitable destruction of our planet as we know it. While we currently aren’t in dire straits, future generations could be living in a world far different from the one we know today if we don’t pass further regulations to start reversing the effects of climate change.
The study, titled “Observed fingerprint of a weakening Atlantic Ocean overturning circulation” was published in the journal Nature.