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Stilvallen van de Amoc golfstroom IPCC klimaatverandering

The cessation of the Gulf Stream is closer than ever, and the tipping point is fast approaching

A study shows that the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic Ocean, the AMOC, is heading towards a tipping point that will affect climate around the world.

We have warned about this time and time again, and new research confirms once again that the Atlantic Gulf Stream is approaching a critical tipping point, and it is closer than ever before. Scientists were shocked by the expected speed of the collapse once this point was reached, although they said it was not yet possible to predict how quickly this would happen. They said against it Watchman.

Using computer models and previous data, researchers have developed an early warning indicator for the collapse of the Atlantic Meridional Circulation (Amoc), a vast system of ocean currents that plays a key role in regulating global climate.


They found that Amok is already on its way to an abrupt transformation, which has not happened in more than 10,000 years, and which will have catastrophic consequences for large parts of the world.

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amoc gulfstream

Amoc wave stream image Wikimedia ​​cc-by 3.0

The Amok, which includes part of the Gulf Stream and other powerful currents, is a marine conveyor belt that transports heat, carbon and nutrients from the tropics to the Arctic Circle, where it cools and sinks into the depths of the ocean. This vortex helps distribute energy across the Earth and moderate the effect of human-caused global warming.

But the system is being eroded by melting Arctic glaciers and ice caps faster than expected, sending fresh water into the sea and preventing saltier, warmer water from the south from sinking.

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AMOC shares have fallen 15% since 1950, and are at their weakest point in more than a thousand years, according to previous research that raised speculation of an imminent collapse.

So far there has been no consensus on how serious this is. One study last year, based on changes in sea surface temperatures, suggested that the tipping point could occur between 2025 and 2095. However, the UK Met Office said that large and rapid changes in the AMOC were “highly unlikely” in the 21st century.

The breakdown was calculated faster

The new article was published in Science AdvancesI broke new ground by looking for warning signs in the salinity of the South Atlantic between Cape Town and Buenos Aires. By simulating changes over 2,000 years using computer models of global climate, it was discovered that slow decline could lead to sudden collapse in less than 100 years, with catastrophic consequences.

The article states that the results provide a “clear answer” to the question of whether such an abrupt shift is possible: “This is bad news for the climate system and humanity, because until now it had been thought that the Amoc shift was merely a theoretical concept and that the shift would disappear once the climate system was taken into account.” The entirety, with all the reactions associated with it, taken into account.

The consequences are everywhere

The research also identified some of the consequences of the transformation witnessed by AMOC. Sea levels in the Atlantic Ocean are expected to rise by one meter in some areas, submerging many coastal cities. Wet and dry seasons will reverse in the Amazon, potentially pushing the already vulnerable rainforest beyond its tipping point. Temperatures around the world will fluctuate erratically. The southern hemisphere will become warmer. Europe will cool significantly and receive less rain. This may sound attractive compared to the current trend of rising temperatures, but the changes will occur ten times faster than they are now, making adaptation almost impossible.

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“What surprised us was the speed with which the change occurred,” said the study's lead author, René van Westen, from Utrecht University. “It would be devastating.”

He said there is not enough data yet to determine whether this will happen next year or in the next century, but if it does, the changes will be irreversible on human time scales.

In the meantime, the trend of developments is undoubtedly worrying. “We're heading straight for that. This is very scary,” Van Westen said. “We need to take climate change seriously.”