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Researchers from the University of Copenhagen’s Niels Bohr Institute predict a major Atlantic current could collapse by the middle of the century as a result of climate change.

A major Atlantic current could collapse by the middle of the century as a result of climate change, prompting extreme cold in Europe and sea level rise along the eastern coast of the U.S., according to a study published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications.

Researchers from the University of Copenhagen’s Niels Bohr Institute used statistical modeling and over a century of ocean temperature data to predict that, under current greenhouse gas emissions, the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) will collapse between 2025 and 2095.

The AMOC is essential to moving warmer water from the tropics through the Gulf Stream and into the North Atlantic Ocean, both delivering cold water off North America and warming the coast of northern Europe. In addition to causing an Ice Age in Europe, its collapse could also significantly cut precipitation in the central and western U.S., the latter of which has already suffered from a once-in-a-millennium drought.

“Shutting down the AMOC can have very serious consequences for Earth’s climate, for example, by changing how heat and precipitation are distributed globally,” Peter Ditlevsen of the Niels Bohr Institute said in a statement. “While a cooling of Europe may seem less severe as the globe as a whole becomes warmer and heat waves occur more frequently, this shutdown will contribute to increased warming of the tropics, where rising temperatures have already given rise to challenging living conditions.”

Previous research published in 2018 and 2021 has also indicated an AMOC collapse is possible, but authors of the 2023 study said their methodology was able to make the most precise estimate so far, putting the certainty level at 95 percent.

The study notably goes further than the United Nations’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which predicted a weakening of AMOC but called a full collapse in the 21st century “very unlikely” in its most recent report.

Original source: https://thehill.com