New research suggests that Gulf Stream currents have hit the lowest point since 400 A.D. The event could trigger extreme weather events in Western Europe during wintertime, scientists warn.
The news comes after multiple reports that the warm Atlantic current may be inching closer to a catastrophic collapse. Current trends suggest that the Gulf Stream could negatively impact tropical rains, as well.
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) pushes warmer waters toward the Arctic. At the North Pole, the warm waters cool and build up density. From there the water goes southwards.
Researchers warn that as the AMOC is losing strength, the weather in multiple regions will change.
Extreme Weather Changes Expected
In 2004, researchers were able to track the current with state-of-the-art tools. They noticed that the current was getting weaker, but they had no idea what that might mean. Two recent studies suggest that the phenomenon could lead to dramatic shifts in weather.
Study author Dr David Thornalley explained that AMOC plays a major role in our planet’s climate system as we know it. AMOC was behind major climate change events in the past. Dr. Thornalley’s study appeared in the journal Nature.
- The good news is that researchers haven’t found evidence that the AMOC is about to shutdown anytime soon.
- However, it may soon reach a tipping point that will have a “high impact” on the planet’s weather system.
Thornalley’s team found that AMOC started losing muscle in 1850, following a mini ice age. That even was caused by climate variability, while recent weakening is caused by climate change, the study suggests.
Meanwhile, a separate study recently published in the journal Nature puts the entire blame on fossil fuel burning for the AMOC’s weakening.
However, both studies have reported a 15% drop in AMOC’s strength, which marks the lowest level in 1600 years.
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