Changes in ocean conveyor belt foretold major climate shifts

Credit: TomoNews US
Published on March 21, 2019 - Duration: 01:32s

Changes in ocean conveyor belt foretold major climate shifts

NEW YORK — In the Atlantic Ocean, a giant 'conveyor belt' carries warm waters from the tropics into the North Atlantic, where they cool and sink and then return south to the deep ocean.

Ocean water circulation affects global climate, regulating weather patterns in the Arctic, Europe and around the world.

More and more research suggests this conveyor belt system is slowing down, causing some scientists to fear it could cause temperatures to plummet in Europe and warming waters off the east coast of the U.S. According to a Columbia University press release, a new study published in Nature Communications has provided insight into how quickly changes in Atlantic Ocean circulation could affect major climate changes.

The study was carried out by researchers at Columbia's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, working with the Norwegian Research Center.

It was the first to precisely calculate the time lags between past changes to the ocean conveyor belt and major climate changes.

The study looked at the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, or AMOC, and specifically focused on a section where water sinks from the surface to the bottom of the North Atlantic.

Researchers took sediment core samples drilled from the bottom of the Norwegian Sea, a lake sediment core from southern Scandinavia, and ice cores from Greenland.

Comparing data from the three cores revealed that the AMOC started weakening about 400 years before a major cold snap 13,000 years ago.

It began strengthening again about 400 years before an abrupt warming 11,000 years ago.

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