The Atlantic Ocean Current Has Now Become Slower Than Ever, Threatening Wildlife and the Global Climate

The global climate of our planet stays relatively stable thanks to a series of environmental mechanisms. One of them is an Atlantic Ocean current, also known as the conveyor belt of the Atlantic Ocean. Over the past few years, researchers noticed a dangerous trend that might threaten the entire climatic system. This current is now moving 1,000 slower than it has ever done, increasing the possibility of more extreme weather events in the future.

What Happened to the Atlantic Ocean Current?

The Atlantic Ocean current plays a really important role in the climatic context. The name of conveyor belt comes from the way it circulates the water and changes its temperature. It takes warm water from the equator and sends it to the North Pole, and then brings it back once it gets cold. This system is also called the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC).

However, researchers made a worrying discovery regarding this current. They looked at the measurements performed since the beginning of the 20th century, and discovered the conveyor belt got about 15 percent slower over time. This is a direct consequence of the damage we have inflicted on the environment.

Climate Change Is to Blame

As greenhouse gas emissions made global temperatures higher, glaciers in the Arctic started melting. This extra amount of water had nowhere to go than in the Atlantic Ocean, and this affected the overall ocean density. As this density got higher, all the ocean currents gradually got slower.

This Atlantic Ocean current has a bigger impact on climate and weather than you might think. Its main purpose is to make the climate of coastal regions friendlier and less harsh during the cold season. From now on, these regions might be hit by extreme weather events like storms or unusually low temperatures.

This speed disruption has an economic effect as well. If the water doesn’t circulate properly, the sea level is likely to rise. First, it will have an impact on fish populations, which are expected to decrease. As a result, this will impact the fishing industry, eventually affecting our economy. Researchers discussed this phenomenon more broadly in a paper published in the journal Nature.

French beach on the Atlantic Ocean coast

The Current Has Been Slowing Down for a Long Time

However, it’s not really a novelty that the Atlantic Ocean current is slowing down. A previous study discovered these currents have been slowing down over the past 1,000 years, and have recently reached their lowest point. This tendency has been more pronounced since industry peaked. Therefore, the problems have started before the dawn of the 20th century. This second study has been published in Nature as well.

The reality is quite grim. If climate keeps changing, then the Atlantic Ocean current will keep slowing down. From here and to the entire collapse of the AMOC system is just a small step. Some scientists suggested things might get ugly in about a century. Now, given these two studies, the collapse might occur a lot earlier than we thought.

However, researchers don’t want to alarm people yet. This slowdown is a reality, but it might take some time until we will see some palpable results. The chances are that, before we even get to see some extreme weather event associated with the Atlantic Ocean current, we can act against climate change and maybe see some improvements.

Image sources: 1, 2.

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William E. Eubanks
 

I'm one of the main writers on the site; mostly dealing with environmental news and ways to live green. My goal is to educate others about this great planet, and the ways we can help to protect it.

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