The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) is a large system of ocean currents that carries warm water from the tropics northwards into the North Atlantic. It operates like a conveyer belt driven by differences in temperature and salt content – the water’s density. It is a vital system of ocean currents that governs weather patterns across the northern hemisphere.
A study published in the New Scientist warns that the AMOC is close to a tipping point that would lead to its collapse as soon as 2025 – this would severely disrupt the climate. Other researchers are more sceptical of this forecast as timings are difficult to predict.
Here are some specific changes that could occur in the UK’s weather if the AMOC stops:
Colder winters: The UK’s winters would become colder due to the loss of the warm water from the tropics. This could lead to more snow and ice, and could have a significant impact on agriculture and tourism.
Wet summers: The UK’s summers would become wetter due to the increased rainfall from the North Atlantic. This could lead to flooding and other problems.
More extreme weather events: The UK would be more likely to experience extreme weather events such as heat waves, droughts, floods, and storms. These events could have a devastating impact on the country’s infrastructure and economy.
How to prepare for this collapse
Possible actions include:
Reduce greenhouse gas emissions: The main cause of the AMOC’s weakening is climate change. By reducing greenhouse gas emissions, we can slow the pace of climate change and reduce the risk of the AMOC collapsing.
Invest in infrastructure: The UK needs to invest in infrastructure that can withstand extreme weather events. This includes flood defences, sea walls, and power grids.
Develop contingency plans: The UK government needs to develop contingency plans in case the AMOC collapses. These plans should include measures to deal with the cold winters, wet summers, and extreme weather events that are likely to occur.