The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) is part of the Gulf Stream, an ocean circulation system that carries warm water from the Gulf of Mexico towards the north Atlantic. There, the cooling water sinks and pulls more warm water northward, bringing milder weather to Britain and western Europe.
But the AMOC seems to be weakening.
The Gulf Stream is affected by the melting of Arctic ice, pouring large quantities of cold water into the sea. As well as causing more extreme weather across Europe and the east coast of the US, the weakening of the AMOC could have severe consequences for Atlantic marine ecosystems including fish populations.
A recent study suggests that the rapid melting of glaciers and sea ice due to global warming is disrupting the system.
Scientists agree that if global temperatures continue to rise, the AMOC will continue to slow down. The consequences could include faster sea level rise along parts of the Atlantic coast, stronger hurricanes in the Southeastern USA, and reduced rainfall across the Sahel desert.
- Julie Wornan