Current Circulation in the Atlantic Is the Slowest in 1,600 Years

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According to a new study by the Nature Geoscience journal, there is a dominant current in the Atlantic Ocean that is playing a major role in redistributing heat throughout the planet’s climate structure. The current is moving a lot slower than it has in nearly 1,600 years.

Scientists believe that global warming is directly part of the slowing current. This attributes to melting ice that changes the balance in northern waters. The effect can be seen in sea-levels rising, heat waves and violent storms. Concerns are mounting that if humans can’t limit warming, the structure could reach a point where it could throw global climate patterns into chaos.      

The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), also known as the Gulf Stream, runs along the east coast of the U.S. and is an essential part of this system. 

Down by 15 Percent

Recent research has shown that since 1950 the circulation has slowed down by 15 percent. Scientists in the new study say the slowing of the current is unprecedented, particularly in the past millennium. Since everything is connected, the slowdown is clearly already having an impact on Earth.

 If we continue to heat the planet, it is estimated that by the end of the century circulation could slow to 34 to 45 percent. Scientists worry if this kind of slowdown continues, it could lead to a dangerous tipping point.

Global Ocean Conveyor Belt

The equator collects more direct sunlight than the two cold polls, this builds up heat in the tropics. In order for it to balance, the Earth sends the tropical heat northbound and cold south from the polls. The atmosphere redistributes the majority of the heat. However, the oceans slowly move the rest by what is called the Global Ocean Conveyor Belt. This is a global structure of currents connecting the world’s oceans moving in all different directions, both vertically and horizontally.

Scientific research has shown through the years that the Atlantic portion of the conveyor belt (AMOC) is the engine that drives its behavior. Moving water 100 times faster than the Amazon river.

It works by using a narrow stretch of warm salty water in the topics, off the coast of Florida, called the Gulf Stream. That warm tropical current is carried north near the surface of the water level into the North Atlantic. After it hits the Greenland region, it cools adequately enough to become heavier and denser than the surrounding waters, causing it to sink. The cold water is then transported southward through deep water currents.

Humans do have some say in all of this, and the choices and decisions we make now, pertaining to our reliance on fossil fuels, will decide the outcome of our climate crisis.