Ocean scientists believe that the Atlantic is experiencing its weakest circulation levels in almost 1,000 years. The decline in this systemic movement could lead to higher sea levels in the United States and more extreme weather events in Europe.
The reason why weak circulation creates potential weather issues involves the Gulf Stream. This event brings the mild weather to Europe, preventing heatwaves and droughts from impacting the continent.
If nothing changes with the current structure, the Gulf Stream could experience up to a 45% reduction in strength by 2100.
Circulation Has Already Slowed About 15%
Researchers believe that the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) is already down by 15% from its average rate. That’s why we already see weather impacts that include more heatwaves in Europe and more hurricanes along the Americas.
It’s expected to continue weakening over the next two or three decades. Researchers studied sediments, ice cores, and other proxy data to reach these conclusions.
The issue is notable because the AMOC has only been studied since 20004. That means researchers are seeing a 1% average decline each year.
Why Is the AMOC Important to Global Health?
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation carries the warm surface water from the Gulf of Mexico further north into the Atlantic. It becomes colder and saltier until it reaches north of Iceland, where it can pull more warmth from the Caribbean.
That pattern is why wet and mild weather often comes to the United Kingdom, Ireland, and western Europe.
Researchers say that the risks of having the AMOC wind down further are so significant that we must consider making adjustments immediately. If global warming issues cannot be reversed, unprecedented changes could be waiting for us in the future.
Although the AMOC won’t collapse soon, the goal is to prevent instability by the end of the century by starting the work today.