The Atlantic’s vital currents could collapse. Scientists are racing to understand the dangers.

Separately, research teams typically go on long trips every 18 months to remove and replace sensors in three or four moorings on the east side of the Bahamas. Their UK counterparts work similarly on the East Coast and along the Atlantic Ridge.

Other groups have arranged an array of moorings to better understand how different components work in different parts of the Atlantic, how tightly the system is connected, and whether changes in one part fly across.

Susan Lozier, an oceanographer at the Georgia Institute of Technology, is leading an international effort called OSNAP, which began in 2014. It has anchor cables in the Labrador Sea and off the southeast coast of Greenland off the coast of Scotland.

The hope of the international research effort was to reach deep-water sources that are largely responsible for advancing currents in the Atlantic, “says Losier, in an effort to gain a better understanding of the mechanisms that drive change in the AMOC.

So far, most of what monitoring programs have discovered is that the Atlantic rotation is more variable than previously thought, she says.

Its power and speed fluctuate dramatically from month to month, year to year, and region to region. Most submergence events in the North Atlantic have long been considered, not in the Labrador Sea, but in the eastern coast of Greenland. The organs flowing north and south function more independently than previously understood. Local wind patterns play a more impressive role than expected. And some of the findings are just confusing.

Atlantic circulation is very likely to be impaired. Studies by Rehmstorf and others at the Potsdam Institute have found that it is about 15% slower than in the mid-20th century and could be the weakest in more than 1,000 years. Both findings are partly based on long-term reconstructions of its behavior using records such as Atlantic Ocean temperature and grain size at sea level, which may reflect changes in deep ocean currents.

There is also a “strong explanation” in the models that trends will continue to weaken in this century if greenhouse-gas emissions continue.

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