Speed of Ocean Circulation Crucial to Climate

Alex Wierbinski's picture

By Alex Wierbinski - Posted on 08 April 2019



The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, Earth Institute at Columbia University.
"The Atlantic meridional overturning circulation, seen here in simplified form, brings warm water northward (red arrows) until it reaches the region around Greenland and northern Europe. Here, it sinks and travels southward (yellow arrows). Much of the water re-emerges in the Southern Ocean." Courtesy Francesco Muschitiello/Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.


Speed of Ocean Circulation Crucial to Climate

Carbon lurking in deep ocean threw ancient climate switch, say researchers,
Earth Institute at Columbia University, April 8, 2019.

Main Points

Mid-Pleistocene Transition
Slowing ancient Ocean Circulation absorbing massive CO2 triggered Severe Cold

Big CO2 Effects
"...the study clearly demonstrates that the carbon missing from the air ended up in the ocean, and had a powerful effect on climate."

"..there's an intimate relationship between the amount of carbon stored in the ocean, and what the climate is doing."

Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation
"The strength of the AMOC is believed to fluctuate naturally, but it appears to have weakened by an unusual 15 percent since the mid-20th century. No one is sure what is behind that, or what effects it might produce if the slowdown continues."

Will it Offset Warming?
"We see a similar weakening today, and one might say, 'Great! Ocean circulation is going to save us from warming climate!' But that's not correct, because of the way different parts of the climate system talk to each other."

"...if the AMOC continues weakening now, it is probable that less carbon-laden water will sink in the north, at the same time, in the Southern Ocean, any carbon already arriving in the deep water will likely keep bubbling up without any problem. The result: carbon will continue to build in the air, not the ocean."


Earth Institute at Columbia University


Recent Ocean Circulation Research

Research: Atlantic circulation is not collapsing

NORTH ATLANTIC CHAOS: Gulf Stream Freaking Out


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