The Atlantic Ocean circulation system that underpins the Gulf Stream, the weather system that pulls warm water from tropical regions up into the northern Atlantic and cold water back towards the south, is now at the weakest it’s been in more than 1 000 years, and climate change is the probable cause, according to a new study.

What is Happening?

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What Does This Mean?

Referring to the potential of sea level rise in the eastern coast of the US, Dr Levke Caesar of Maynooth University in Ireland, and the lead author of the paper, says, “The northward surface flow of the AMOC leads to a deflection of water masses to the right, away from the US east coast. This is due to Earth’s rotation that diverts moving objects such as currents to the right in the northern hemisphere and to the left in the southern hemisphere. As the current slows down, this effect weakens and more water can pile up at the US east coast, leading to an enhanced sea level rise.”

Stefan Ragmstorf, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, co-author of the study, told the Guardian that the circulation had already slowed by about 15% since the mid-1900s, and the impacts were being seen. He says, “In 20 to 30 years it is likely to weaken further, and that will inevitably influence our weather, so we would see an increase in storms and heatwaves in Europe, and sea level rises on the east coast of the US.”

Featured image by: Flickr