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Chris Mooney @chriscmooney
, 13 tweets, 3 min read Read on Twitter
1. Just published a story on a high profile pair of studies in Nature -- both about the slowing of the Atlantic ocean’s circulation. Aka, the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation or AMOC.
3. .@rahmstorf, one of the authors of one of the studies, also has a post at RealClimate about all of this which you should check out. realclimate.org/index.php/arch…
4. Anyway, the two studies agree about some things, disagree about others. Where they agree – the circulation is in a weak state currently, weaker than it has been in a long time and maybe thousands of years. That’s already kind of a big deal.
5. Where they disagree – causation. Or in other words, when this started and what it means for the role of humans and greenhouse gas emissions.
6. One study basically blames it on us – the other says it started before we could really be responsible, but then continued and we could be making it worse.
7. Two additional key pieces of context are needed to assess all of this.
8. The first is that neither of the new studies is based on direct measurements of the circulation because we haven’t had those for very long (a little over 10 years). But that admittedly short time record also shows a recent downturn agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.10…
9. The second is that climate models and basic physical understanding suggest that the AMOC ought to weaken as we melt ice in the northern hemisphere. The real question is whether it’s already started and once started, how fast it could reach some type of tipping point.
10. So in light of these points, what should you make of all this?
11. Simply put -- there’s mounting evidence that the circulation is already weak, and there is reason to be concerned that even if we haven’t had much effect yet, we are pushing the system -- and it is vulnerable.
12. And the consequences are very large, since a shutdown would cause a sea level surge along the US east coast, to say nothing of the potential for major weather changes and big impacts on fisheries.
13. So in sum – we can't say for sure but it seems like that climate wild card, the AMOC, is one we really have to watch. You can bet scientists will be loading up boats to the North Atlantic to learn more -- and additional years of data will give much more perspective. /end
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