Ocean currents vital for distributing heat could collapse by midcentury, study says

A system of ocean currents that transports heat northward across the North Atlantic could collapse by mid-century, according to a new study, and scientists have said before that such a collapse could cause catastrophic sea-level rise and extreme weather across the globe.

In recent decades, researchers have both raised and downplayed the specter of Atlantic current collapse. It even prompted a movie that strayed far from the science. Two years ago the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said any such catastrophe is unlikely this century. But the new study published in Nature Communications suggests it might not be as far away and unlikely as mainstream science says.

The Atlantic meridional overturning circulation is a vital system of ocean currents that circulates water throughout the Atlantic Ocean, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It’s a lengthy process, taking an estimated 1,000 years to complete, but has slowed even more since the mid-1900s.

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