Scientists warn the Gulf Stream may collapse, inciting a global climate crisis

Experts warn the Gulf Stream may be at risk of collapsing, prompting a climate crisis. 

  • Scientists feat the Gulf Stream may collapse, leading to catastrophic consequences all over the planet.
  • The researchers report that the Gulf Stream is at its weakest point in the last 1,600 years.

The Gulf Stream, one of our planet’s main potential tipping points, may be at risk of collapsing, climate scientists fear. As reported by The Guardian, experts discovered “an almost complete loss of stability over the last century” of the currents that researchers call the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC).

According to the recent analysis, the currents may be nearing a shutdown. The scientists note that they are already at their lowest point in more than 1,600 years.

In case a collapse occurs, the researchers warn there would be catastrophic consequences around the globe. For instance, a shutdown at this range could severely disrupt the rains, leaving billions of people in India, South America, and West Africa without food. It could also affect the weather in Europe, push up the sea level in North America, and endanger the Amazon rainforest and Antarctic ice sheets.

For now, the exact date of the possible collapse of the Gulf Stream is unclear. 

The scientists are uncertain exactly when the shutdown will occur. However, they are firm that we should not allow it to happen, as the consequences will be detrimental.

Niklas Boers, from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, commented:

“The signs of destabilization being visible already is something that I wouldn’t have expected and that I find scary. It’s something you just can’t [allow to] happen.”

The expert notes it is not clear what level of CO2 would trigger an AMOC breakdown, adding:

“The only thing to do is keep emissions as low as possible. The likelihood of this extremely high-impact event happening increases with every gram of CO2 that we put into the atmosphere.”

In May, Boers and his colleagues revealed that a big part of the Greenland ice sheet is on the brink. 

The massive ice sheet might cause a significant rise in global sea level, the scientists alert.

Meanwhile, it was reported that the Amazon rainforest is now emitting more CO2 than it absorbs. Moreover, the heatwave that hit Siberia last year led to worrying releases of methane. These are three of the tipping points that could cause irreversible climate changes.

The data from Boer’s study, titled “Observation-based early-warning signals for a collapse of the AMOC,” shows rising temperatures can make the AMOC switch abruptly between states over one to five decades. According to eight independently measured datasets of temperature and salinity from the last 150 years, global warming is increasing the instability of the currents.

The research concludes:

“This decline [of the AMOC in recent decades] may be associated with an almost complete loss of stability over the course of the last century, and the AMOC could be close to a critical transition to its weak circulation mode.”

Levke Caesar, at Maynooth University in Ireland, commented:

“The study method cannot give us an exact timing of a possible collapse, but the analysis presents evidence that the AMOC has already lost stability, which I take as a warning that we might be closer to an AMOC tipping than we think.”

David Thornalley, at University College London, the scientist who discovered that the AMOC is at its lowest point in 16 centuries, added:

“These signs of decreasing stability are concerning. But we still don’t know if a collapse will occur, or how close we might be to it.”

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