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Current Affairs

Atlantic Ocean current system slowing down

Date: 12 August 2021 Tags: Climate Change

Issue

A new study has pointed out that the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) is losing its stability.

 

Background

The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) plays a major role in climate stability by preventing ice formation.

 

Details

  • It is being assumed that AMOC will decline over the 21st century. This study was mentioned in the IPCC’s climate Assessment Report (AR6).

  • The researchers involved in study say that the decline is not fluctuation but rather a phase in which the phenomenon will collapse if critical threshold in crossed.

  • The AMOC is an ocean current system. It is the Atlantic part of the ocean’s Thermohaline circulation (THC), which is also known as conveyor belt.

  • The system distributes nutrients and heat throughout the basins of the oceans. Warm ocean waters are transported from tropical region to the northern hemisphere.

  • The water then cools and sinks to bottom, which is again transported back to the tropics in a cycle. The Antarctic circumpolar current then transports it to all basins.

 

Effects of AMOC collapse

  • The Gulf Stream is an important and critical component of AMOC. If the AMOC collapses, Europe and Eastern US coast will become very cold.

  • The subsequent cooling of northern hemisphere will lead to lower rainfall in Europe. This will have effects on the El Nino phenomenon.

  • Previous studies had not been able to gauge the effects of freshwater from glacial melt on stability of AMOC. The circulation will become weaker.

 

Reason for slowing down

  • The major reason has been global warming, that has led to changes inflow pattern of currents. The freshwater addition will reduce the salinity of ocean and also the density.

  • The water will not be able to cool and sink as earlier. Due to this, the circulation pattern towards tropics gets weakened.

  • The heating of Indian Ocean has led to generation of higher precipitation in the region. The precipitation in Atlantic Ocean will reduce, leading to higher salinity and instability.