Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Atlantic Circulation Is Not Collapsing -- but as It Shifts Gears, Warming Will Reaccelerate

Atlantic circulation is not collapsing -- but as it shifts gears, warming will reaccelerate.

These lines show different ways of gauging the strength of the Atlantic overturning circulation. Direct monitoring only began in 2004, so other oceanic measures are needed to extend the dataset back to 1950. (Credit: Ka-Kit Tung/University of Washington) Click to Enlarge.
A huge circulation pattern in the Atlantic Ocean took a starring role in the 2004 movie "The Day After Tomorrow."  In that fictional tale the global oceanic current suddenly stops and New York City freezes over.

While many aspects of the movie are unrealistic, oceanographers are concerned about the long-term stability of the Atlantic Ocean circulation, and previous studies show that it has slowed dramatically in the past decade.  New research from the University of Washington and the Ocean University of China finds the slowdown is not caused by global warming but is part of regular, decades-long cycle that will affect temperatures in coming decades.

The paper was published July 19 in the journal Nature.

"Climate scientists have expected the Atlantic overturning circulation to decline long-term under global warming, but we only have direct measurements of its strength since April 2004.  And the decline measured since then is 10 times larger than expected," said corresponding author Ka-Kit Tung, a UW professor of applied mathematics with an adjunct appointment in atmospheric sciences.

Read more at Atlantic Circulation Is Not Collapsing -- but as It Shifts Gears, Warming Will Reaccelerate

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