Climate Risk Areas Initiative News

New study measures evolution of the North Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) since 1980

  • 11 March 2022
New study measures evolution of the North Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) since 1980

The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) is a key component of the climate through its transport of heat in the North Atlantic Ocean. Decadal changes in the AMOC, whether through internal variability or anthropogenically forced weakening, have wide-ranging impacts. A new study, performed by a group of scientists from the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and the United States uses evidence from observations, ocean reanalyses, forced models, and proxies to expand the understanding of contemporary decadal variability in the AMOC. The study, in which CPO’s Climate Variability & Predictability (CVP) program-funded scientist Martha W. Buckley (George Mason University) collaborated, was recently published in Nature Reviews Earth & Environment.

Results from the study show that, since 1980, AMOC has had periods of strengthening and weakening, although the magnitudes of change are uncertain. In the subpolar North Atlantic, the AMOC strengthened until the mid-1990s and then weakened until the early 2010s. In the subtropics, evidence suggests a strengthening of the AMOC from 2001 to 2005, and a weakening from 2005 to 2014. The authors also provide recommendations for future research which include the development of robust and sustainable solutions for the long-term monitoring of the AMOC, and better ways to distinguish anthropogenic weakening from internal variability.

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