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Study Pinpoints Key Reasons For Sea Flow Change

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Researchers have identified the key factors that influence a vital pattern of ocean currents.

The Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) carries warm water from the tropics northward.

Many scientists think that this heat transport makes areas including northwest Europe and the UK warmer than they would otherwise be.

Climate models suggest the AMOC is likely to weaken over the coming decades, with widespread implications for regional and global climate.

The new study—led by the universities of Exeter and Oxford, and published in Nature Geoscience—pinpoints the causes of monthly and annual AMOC variation and finds a differing picture at two key locations.

Observational data came from large arrays of monitoring equipment—off the coasts of Florida and Africa, and in the North Atlantic between Greenland and Scotland—run by the international RAPID and OSNAP projects.

Our findings reveal the vital role of winds in driving changes in this ocean circulation.

Winds were a key factor both in the sub-tropical and sub-polar locations we examined.

While AMOC variability off the southern U.S. is dominated by the impact of winds, variability in the North Atlantic is generated by the combined effects of winds, heat, and freshwater anomalies.

The study also finds that changes in the surface temperature and salinity near Canada and Greenland can trigger a delayed remote impact on the Atlantic circulation as far south as Florida.

Reference/Journal Nature Geoscience
Source/Provided by University of Exeter

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