Los Angeles: Heating up of the Indian Ocean can have far-reaching global climate impacts by accelerating one of the planet's largest water circulation systems connecting the warmer and colder parts of the world's seas, according to a study.
The Atlantic meridional overturning circulation, or AMOC, is responsible for moving warm, salty water from the tropics to the northern part of the world like Western Europe, and sending colder water to the South, noted the study.
While scientists have been trying to understand if the AMOC is slowing down — a development that could have dramatic consequences for Europe — by making it severely colder — the current study suggests that the Indian Ocean may be helping maintain its speed.
According to the study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, scientists were concerned if the AMOC was slowing down based on data from the last 15 years.
Researchers of the current study led by Shineng Hu of the University of California-San Diego in the US, say that it is not known if the slowing is the result of global warming, or if it is only a short-term natural anomaly.
“There is no consensus yet,” said co-author Alexey Fedorov of Yale University. “I think the issue of AMOC stability should not be ignored.
The mere possibility that the AMOC could collapse should be a strong reason for concern in an era when human activity is forcing significant changes to the Earth’s systems,” he added.
The last time the AMOC weakened substantially, Fedorov said, was 15,000 to 17,000 years ago. He cautioned that it had global impacts. “We would be talking about harsh winters in Europe, with more storms or a drier Sahel in Africa due to the downward shift of the tropical rain belt, for example,” he said.
The researchers found a series of cascading effects stretching from the Indian Ocean all the way over to the Atlantic. They found that as the warming of the Indian Ocean gathers pace, it generated additional precipitation which in turn, drew more air from other parts of the world, including the Atlantic.
The researchers noted that with increased rainfall in the Indian Ocean, the precipitation in the Atlantic Ocean would reduce.