The Gulf Stream system — a system of ocean currents that redistributes heat on our planet and has a major impact on climate — is at its weakest in over 1,000 years and it is likely due to human-induced climate change. Also known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), scientists warn that if global warming continues unabated, it will weaken further, and could reduce by about 34% to 45% by the end of this century, bringing it closer to a “tipping point”.
The AMOC is a key control on both regional and global climate, and its abrupt slowdown could trigger disruptions around the globe. The consequences could be manifold for people living on both sides of the Atlantic, with the east coast of the US vulnerable to flooding. A weakened Gulf Stream would increase sea levels on the Atlantic coast of the US, with potentially disastrous consequences, they emphasize. “If we continue to drive global warming, the Gulf Stream System will weaken further, by 34-45% by 2100, according to the latest generation of climate models. This could bring us dangerously close to the tipping point at which the flow becomes unstable,” warns Dr Stefan Rahmstorf from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), who initiated the study.