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Important ocean current system could collapse by mid-century

The AMOC regulates how heat moves from the lower latitudes into the northern hemisphere.

THE SYSTEM OF ocean currents that bring warm water to the north Atlantic Ocean is likely to collapse by the middle of the century if greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced, a new study has found.

Researchers in Denmark studying the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) expect it to collapse this century under current projections of future emissions.

The study, published today in scientific journal Nature, expects that the AMOC will collapse some time between 2025 and 2095, with “high confidence” that it will happen as soon as the middle of the century.

 The AMOC regulates how heat moves from the lower latitudes into the northern hemisphere.

If it stalls or collapses altogether, it would have significant international impacts, making winters in Europe harsher, disrupting monsoon season patterns, and raising sea levels.

The collapse of the AMOC is one of several ‘tipping points’ that scientists are concerned woulld bring irreversible changes with major effects for the planet. 

“We predict with high confidence the tipping [point] to happen as soon as mid-century,” the study stated, with a 95% confidence range of 2025 to 2095.

“These results are under the assumption that the model is approximately correct, and we, of course, cannot rule out that other mechanisms are at play, and thus, the uncertainty is larger. However, we have reduced the analysis to have as few and sound assumptions as possible, and given the importance of the AMOC for the climate system, we ought not to ignore such clear indicators of an imminent collapse,” the study said.

It said the findings are a “worrisome result” that “should call for fast and effective measures to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions” to slow down temperature increases and ice melting in the North Atlantic region.

Additional reporting by AFP

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