Climate change dials down Atlantic Ocean heating system

Scientists have found a significant shift in the system of ocean currents that helps keep parts of Europe warm which could send temperatures in the UK lower.

They say the Atlantic Ocean circulation system is weaker now than it has been for more than a thousand years and has changed significantly in the past one hundred fifty years.

The study, in the journal Nature, says it may be a response to increased melting ice and is likely to continue and could have an impact on Atlantic ecosystems.

Scientists involved in the Atlas project (the largest study of deep Atlantic ecosystems ever undertaken) states that the impact will not be of the order played out in the 2004 Hollywood blockbuster ‘The Day After Tomorrow’, but they say changes to the conveyor belt like system (also known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (Amoc)) could cool the North Atlantic and north-west Europe and transform some deep-ocean ecosystems (affecting temperature-sensitive species like coral, and even Atlantic cod). The deep Atlantic contains some of the world’s oldest and most spectacular cold-water coral reef and deep-sea sponge grounds.

Scientists believe the pattern is a response to fresh water from melting ice sheets being added to surface ocean water, meaning those surface waters “can’t get very dense and sink”. Scientists say understanding what is happening to Amoc will help them make much more accurate forecasts of our future climate.

The scientists want to continue to study patterns in this crucial temperature-regulating system, to understand whether as ice sheets continue to melt, this could drive further slowdown – or even a shutdown of a system that regulates our climate.

(Source: BBC News)

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