Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation [AMOC]

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : May 13, 2022, 12:27

The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation [AMOC] refers to an extensive system of ocean currents that carry warm water from the tropic northwards towards the Atlantic. They are a component of the Atlantic Ocean and are vital to Earth's climate as they are a direct result of atmospheric and thermohaline drivers. Recent Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation [AMOC] measurements indicate that the currents have weakened due to global warming. This loss of stability is estimated to impact climate significantly in Europe.

Here is everything you need to know about the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation, a crucial Atlantic ocean current system.

What is the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation [AMOC]?

The heat from the Sun is received primarily by the tropical regions, and it is redistributed across the globe through the atmosphere and oceans. In the ocean, Thermohaline Circulation (THC), an ocean conveyor belt, achieves this purpose by driving ocean currents using forces of water density, temperature, and saline.

The Atlantic meridional overturning circulation is an Atlantic Ocean Current System branching out of the THC. The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation [AMOC] carries warm surface water from tropical regions to the northern hemisphere, which then cools down, sinks, and returns to the tropics as a deep current.

Workings of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation

  • When warm water flows towards the northern hemisphere, it cools down, and its evaporation increases its salinity (salt content).
  • As a result of the decreased temperature and high salt content, the water becomes denser and sinks deep into the ocean. This cool water then flows back to the south.
  • In the south, the temperature increases and the warmer water reaches the surface. This process of warmer water being pulled back up is called "upwelling". It completes the circulation of the current.

Functions of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation [AMOC]

  • It helps redistribute heat and energy across the globe, thus impacting global temperatures and climate.
  • It moderates temperatures in Europe, which would be very harsh without the redistributed heat.
  • It absorbs and stores atmospheric carbon, thus acting as a carbon sink.

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Weakening of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation [AMOC]

  • The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation [AMOC] undergoes fluctuations but has exceptionally weakened over the last few decades. It is also estimated that it will continue to weaken further during the 21st century.
  • The weakening of Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation [AMOC] results from global warming and the increase in greenhouse gases.
  • As the atmosphere gets warmer, the oceans absorb more heat. At the same time, an increase in rainfall and the melting of ice have decreased the level of salt in the water. Therefore, the current is less dense and does not sink sufficiently in the THC.
  • Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation [AMOC] weakening will increase the number of storms in northern Europe and reduce tropical cyclones in the Atlantic. Additionally, it will increase the sea level along the northeastern coast of North America.
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Connection Between the Indian Ocean and Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation [AMOC]

  • The Atlantic meridional overturning circulation can be boosted by a rise in the temperature of the Indian Ocean.
  • Rising temperatures in the Indian Ocean increase precipitation. This draws wind from the tropical portions of the Atlantic and reduces precipitation there.
  • If precipitation reduces, the salt content will increase, and the current will cool and sink faster when it has reached the northern hemisphere. However, research has not determined how long this effect will slow down the weakening of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation [AMOC].

The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation is an Atlantic Ocean Current System that forms a part of the THC. It redistributes warmth and energy from the southern hemisphere to the northern hemisphere, making temperatures in Europe less harsh.

Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation [AMOC] is vital to the climate in Europe and the coastal regions in North America, and its weakening due to global warming will be detrimental.

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FAQs on Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation [AMOC]

Q.1 What does AMOC stand for?

Ans. AMOC stands for Atlantic meridional overturning circulation.

Q.2 What is Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation [AMOC]?

Ans. Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation [AMOC] is a large system of ocean currents that carry warm water from the tropic northwards towards the Atlantic.

Q.3 What is THC, with regard to Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation [AMOC]?

Ans. With Regards to Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation [AMOC], Thermohaline Circulation (THC) is an ocean conveyor belt that redistributes temperature and energy across the globe by driving ocean currents using forces of water density, temperature, and saline.

Q.4 Why is the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation [AMOC] weakening?

Ans. The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation [AMOC] is weakening due to global warming and increased atmospheric greenhouse gases.