A new study has found that global warming has caused an “almost complete loss of stability” in the network of currents that weave their way through the North Atlantic Ocean, a series of currents that, if they were to collapse entirely, would result in a domino effect of systemic climate disasters around the world.
This study, conducted at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, has charted key indicators that reflect the health of what is called the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC), including more than a century of water temperature and salinity records, and found that the stability of the AMOC is rapidly approaching a tipping point that might see the currents shutting down entirely.
“The signs of destabilization being visible already is something that I wouldn’t have expected and that I find scary,” explains study author Niklas Boers. “It’s something you just can’t [allow to] happen.”
The AMOC is a network of currents that zig-zag northward from the west coast of Africa across to the Caribbean, and then tracking northeast towards northern Europe. Under normal circumstances, the warm water from this southern stream cools when it meets the currents flowing south from the Arctic; this cooling causes the water to sink into the depths where it joins another current that runs south, deep under the Atlantic, to continue its journey through the world’s oceans.
However, the accelerated melt of glaciers in Greenland has caused a large amount of fresh water to flood into the ocean where this downward convection takes place, and this fresh water, being less dense than salt water, inhibits the sinking of the current’s waters, slowing the flow of the entire system.
If the AMOC grinds to a halt entirely, this creates a bottleneck in the overall system of water circulating through the world’s oceans, with far-reaching consequences: sea-level rise would accelerate along the east coast of North America; rain patterns in India, South America and West Africa would be disrupted, potentially starving the crops that billions rely on for nourishment; Europe would see an intensification in storm activity, along with a dramatic drop in temperature; and despite being at the opposite end of the Earth, the ice sheets of Antarctica would be put under increased strain from warming ocean waters.
This desalination effect on the AMOC was last seen close to the end of the last ice age: as the world began to warm back up, a massive glacial lake that covered much of what are the modern-day Canadian provinces of Manitoba and Ontario abruptly emptied into the North Atlantic. The sudden flood of fresh water shut down the AMOC, disrupting the flow of warm water to northern Europe and plunging the planet back into a mini ice age that lasted for 1,200 years known as the Younger Dryas.
Due to the complex factors that govern the health of the AMOC, Boers is unable to provide a forecast of exactly how close the AMOC is to failing this time around, although he is able to offer that “the critical threshold is most likely much closer than we would have expected.”
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Whitley, thank you for try to warn the world for all these years. Few listened, few changed their ways but your message went home to some. Thank you.
I,ve been reading the ” IPCC , AR6 climate change report ” . The LIKELY scenarios for the coming decades makes for a frightening read .
I am saddened , but unsurprised by the report . Champions of the planet like the naturalist David Attenborough and writers like yourself Whitley have been trying to alert and warn humanity of this impending danger for years .
As always those with the power to implement change do nothing for fear of corporate loss .
I am heartbroken that the results of damage done by past generations will cause huge suffering on those future generations left to cope with the aftermath of climate breakdown .
I received this from my niece today and it is beautiful. You can feel the soul connection with our mother earth. I SIMPLY WEPT WHILE WATCHING IT. I weep for ALL humanity at this time and for our planets fate.
Carolee , I feel like a lone voice shouting into the wind , my Grandkids face a bleak future unless drastic action is taken by world governments .
I do what I can personally to reduce my carbon footprint , but it’s not going to have any effect .
Every Nation has to address this , sadly many are in such dire situation s of war and famine that they can’t.
Other nations have their own agendas and simply ignore climate change.
I see Greek , Turkish and Californian forests burning and it’s enough to make me despair .
And the Siberian fires are larger than the rest of the world’s wildfires put together.
The same idiots who are now spewing disinformation about the vaccine are the same idiots who have spent decades denying climate change or that humans have anything to do with it. I seem to recall Whitley reporting that The Visitors are deeply concerned about the state of our planet. If they are worried about it, then we should be really worried about it.
What the average person can do doesn’t really factor, in my opinion, at this point. Reducing our emissions does mean something when trying to sway politics/opinion. If enough of us change our ways things may start to happen, but really, it’s getting way past curfew. I do my small part, drive a hybrid, try to buy local, practice carbon building in my garden etc.
In reality though what options were we given when coal was by far the major source for energy production? Short of dropping out of society and living a hunter gatherer lifestyle there was no tangible options.
Make no mistake this largely is a coal problem. Roughly 25% of the CO2 up there has the isotopic signature of it. All fossil fuel emissions count but we sure have burped a bunch of dirty burning emissions from coal nature intended to keep under ground. I will play the blame game. We knew this was a problem when things could have been done. Politics and special interest have driven us to the cliff of disaster.
I agree with you Stan , in the UK we belched the toxic byproducts of burning coal into the atmosphere for decades .
Subsequently North sea Oil and Gas were discovered .
In England, BP discovered gas in reservoirs in the Eskdale anticline in 1938, and in 1939 they found commercial oil in Carboniferous rocks at Eakring in Nottinghamshire. Discoveries elsewhere in the East Midlands lifted production to 400 m³ (2,500 barrels) per day, and a second wave of exploration from 1953 to 1961 found the Gainsborough field and ten smaller fields.
As a kid , North sea ( Natural Gas ) was seen as ” Clean energy ” . Most folks switched from coal fires to Gas fires and ovens for heating and cooking .How naive we were .
Britain’s oil and gas rigs are the most polluting in the North Sea oil basin, according to industry data, with enough unwanted gas burned off every year to heat a million homes.
The UK emits 21kg of carbon dioxide for every barrel of North Sea oil.As North sea Oil production declines , my hope is that we can dramatically reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and switch to Green energy.
Where I live in Hull , we have a large factory which produces wind turbines .
Siemens Gamesa, the world’s leader in the offshore wind industry, will expand its successful offshore blade factory in Hull, England. If the development goes ahead, the factory would increase in size from 387,500-sq-ft (36,000-sq-m) to 835,270-sq-ft (77,600-sq-m), with a separate office building. I hope this will provide jobs in the Green industry in East Yorkshire and that Wind farms are a viable source of Green electricity .We have not much of a choice as the Oil , Gas and Coal is depleted .
Nuclear power was seen as a viable option when I was growing up , but I have huge reservations about this now after witnessing the Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters . Then there was the ” windscale fire in 1957 and 2 incidents at Dounray in Scotland in 1963 and 1998. There was radioactive material leaked that will NEVER be cleaned up . As for ” Sellafield ” there have been 3 serious incidents of radioactive leakage with the most recent breach in 2020/21.
These nuclear accidents petrfy me for that reason . EDF energy are planning to build 4 new reactors sited at power plants in the South of England . Public opposition has been bulldozed over .
I like the idea of
Solar power , but the large tracts of land needed to construct solar farms just isn’t viable in the UK I think . Farmland turned over to Solar Farming seems a good idea , but then the soil would be polluted . It’s also expensive .
More research needs to be done into hydro electric and wave energy as a matter of urgency .
Well that’s just my thoughts as an average person in my 60th decade . I,ve seen so much happen in my own lifetime due to climate change and is going to get far worse really fast I fear .
Frances I was introduced to energy politics in the mid 70’s and let me say that the number one thing which should be realized is that these plants-nuclear- never NEVER PAY THEMSELVES off. Also conservation is the number one way toward survival- reworking architecture and transportation and expectations- even just zoning so that small homes can be built- not more juice at the end of a switch.
From the MOTK… I reread this from time to time:
The climate began to rapidly change in 2000, and this process will accelerate over the next decades. There is a great cycle of climate that began 2.8 million years ago and has resulted in the fundamental destabilization of our world’s weather system. We have evolved intelligence in order to survive the sudden shifts back and forth from ice ages to temperate periods. In fact, this planetary instability has been the engine of our evolution. The cycle is about to change and challenge us…
Warmth will be retained near the surface by greenhouse elements resulting in cooling aloft. A massive and extremely powerful convection can arise that results in a storm or storms so great that it changes the climate permanently.
The next ice age will begin soon, and this will lead to the extinction of mankind, or a massive reduction in population, given our inability to expand off the planet. This planet at present is a death trap.
This will happen because air at the surface is getting warmer, the North polar ice is melting, reducing the salinity of the Laurentian sea. At some point, winds crossing the sea due to increasing difference between lower and higher atmospheric pressures will warm the northern ocean so much that the temperature differential needed to pump the North Atlantic Current will not be sufficient, and the current will slow down, stop flowing so far North. This same mechanism always triggers ice ages and would happen with in a few Thousand years no matter what. However, human activity has sped up the process of atmospheric warming, so the change will be sooner and stronger. The greater part of human industry and culture, along with the species’ most educated populations, will be destroyed in a single season. This will happen suddenly and without warning, or rather, the warning will not be recognized for what it was.
First the surface features of the currents will slow down. This will result in violent storms in Europe. At some point, Artic temperatures will rise forty or more points above normal during a spring or summer season. Then the currents themselves will change their routes or stop. Cold air trapped above the Artic will plunge down and collide with the warm tropical air present at the surface. It will create the most powerful storms in 10,000 years, storms unlike you have ever seen or imagined. These storms will bring about the end of the Northern civilization and the climate change that follows will lead to the starvation of billions.
Thank you, Whitley, for all of your work!!! I better read the “Coming Super Storm” to get prepared for what’s to come.
The North Atlantic Current warms Europe and keeps it from being covered in ice.
The Current is 3 to four feet deep and is massive like 100,000 Amozon Rivers.
During WW II a Congress person proposed building a fleet of barges to be strung across the tip of Florida to cause the Current to collapse. He wanted to freeze the Germans out.
He was laughed off the floor. He was right.