A new study was published this week that found a critical current system in the Atlantic Ocean that helps to redistribute heat around the planet is extremely weak. The current is called the Gulf Stream, and according to the researchers on the study, it’s moving more slowly now than it has in the last 1600 years. Interestingly, a similar study made the same claim back in 2018.
Scientists believe that part of the reason for the current slowing is related to the warming climate and melting ice that are altering the balance of the ocean waters. The Gulf Stream flow that moves across the eastern coast of the United States is an essential part of the system known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation or AMOC. Interestingly, the slowing of this ocean current was part of the premise of the disaster movie “The Day After Tomorrow” that hit theaters back in 2004 and dealt with the ramifications of the current stopping completely.
Scientists say there isn’t an abrupt stop to the current coming anytime soon. Researchers believe the circulation of the current has slowed at least 15 percent compared to 1950. Researchers say the current has weakened in an unprecedented amount in the past millennium. They also believe that slowing of the current is having an impact on the Earth.
By the end of the century, they predict the circulation could slow by between 34 and 45 percent if the planet continues to heat. While most heat that hits the earth is redistributed by the atmosphere, some are moved by ocean currents via a method known as the Global Ocean Conveyor Belt. That is a global system of currents that connects the world’s oceans, moving in different directions horizontally and vertically.
Research has shown that the Atlantic portion of the conveyor belt, the AMOC, drives the current system moving water at 100 times the flow of the Amazon River. Scientists believe as ice from the Arctic melts at an accelerating pace, the currents are slowing.