North Atlantic current could stop for the next 100 years

The North Atlantic Current, a global climate phenomenon essential because it carries hot water from the Gulf of Mexico to Europe and the North Atlantic Ocean, could cease, albeit temporarily, during the next century according to a study published in Scientific Reports and carried out by researchers at the Universities of Groningen and Utrecht.

This current, or rather a complex system of currents in the Atlantic Ocean, causes a phenomenon defined as “southern overturning circulation” (AMOC), a phenomenon that guarantees an almost mild climate for most of north-western Europe, transporting southern heat to the North. The phenomenon could come to a halt due to the sea water that could increase as a result of the melting of Greenland ice as well as possible increased rainfall.

Already in the period between 2008 and 2012 the average strength of the AMOC decreased compared to the period 2004-2008 and there was a short interval at the end of 2009 when its strength was almost zero. According to the researchers, AMOC’s strength could be sensitive to the presence of surface fresh water. Researchers have carried out simulations of large freshwater inputs into seawater, which is what is expected to happen during the coming decades with the Greenland meltdown, and have found that there is a 15% probability that during the next century this current could stop, or almost completely, temporarily.

Researcher Daniele Castellana of the University of Utrecht, one of the authors of the study, states: “The temporary interruptions of the North Atlantic current are to be interpreted as fluctuations of the same current. The consequences of these fluctuations on the climate of Europe and North America have not been analyzed by the study, and there is no (yet) evidence to affirm a correlation between the two phenomena. Substantial temperature variations have been found, by other studies, as the potential consequence of a permanent stop of the Atlantic currents. Such a permanent stop, however, seems to be very unlikely in the next 100 years, as our study states.”

In essence, any climate change in the North Atlantic Ocean and continents with decreases in temperature and possible waves of frost as a result of temporary stops in the current must be substantiated by further studies.