An August 5th article in the Washington Post covers how climate change has drastically weakened the system that drives Atlantic Ocean currents, the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), close to a point that would drive major changes in our weather and climate. Physical oceanographers, including many funded by CPO’s Climate Variability and Predictability (CVP) program, are currently trying to confirm the AMOC slowdown through direct observations as well as monitoring and studying several indicators of change mentioned in the article.
The research highlighted in the article found significant changes in eight indirect measures of AMOC’s strength, suggesting that AMOC is running out of steam and more susceptible to disruptions. AMOC is at “the heart of Earth’s climate system, playing a critical role in redistributing heat and regulating weather patterns around the world.” If AMOC shuts down, it could bring extreme cold temperatures to Europe and parts of North America, disrupt seasonal monsoons, and raise sea levels along the U.S. East Coast.
Key areas of focus for CVP-sponsored scientists studying AMOC include sea surface temperature, salinity, and freshwater influx into the North Atlantic. CVP’s Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20) competition Decadal Climate Variability and Predictability includes several projects focused on investigating the relationship between AOMC and global and regional sea levels. It also includes projects focused more broadly on better understanding the mechanisms underlying sea surface temperature and ocean heat content.
CVP also held earlier competitions in FY13 and FY16 directly targeting AMOC. Recordings of CVP’s 2016 webinar series “AMOC Mechanisms & Decadal Predictability Webinars” are still available.
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