WASHINGTON (AP) – One of the key drivers of the world's climate is an area in the North Atlantic Ocean where warm and colder water mix and swirl.
By hundreds of miles.
The consequences are not yet understood
It is called the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, and scientists describe it as a giant ocean conveyor belt that moves water from Greenland south to beyond the tip of Africa and into the Indian Ocean.
Warm, salty water near the surface moves north and mixes with cold, fresh water near Greenland. As the water cools and sinks it drives, the location of droughts and frequency of hurricanes is over. It also stores heat-trapping carbon dioxide deep in the ocean.
The area where warm water turns over in the North Atlantic is considered to be the engine of the conveyor belt. Scientists thought it was in the Labrador Sea west of Greenland.
But now a new international science team measured temperature, saltiness and the speed of ocean currents throughout the Atlantic. Susan Lozier, an oceanic sciences professor at Duke University, said that she was a professor at the University of California. The study, published in Thursday's journal Science, puts it east of Greenland, closer to Scotland.
The computer simulation that predict how the climate could change in coming years did not take place in exactly where the conveyor belt engine is, and now they may be able to. Lozier and several outside experts said that it does not mean that they have any problems in the models, especially when the models are checked in the real world.
"It does not mean said Tom Delworth, a senior scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Geophysical Lab in Princeton, New Jersey.
MIT's Carl Wunsch and other outside experts said the study was helpful, but pointed
Scientists have long considered that the conveyor belt could be slow and, in a worst-case scenario, could not stop and cause abruptly catastrophic climate change. It is considered as a potential climate. "The Day After Tomorrow."
Based on computer model studies, the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported in an earlier study is "very unlikely" that the conveyor belt would collapse this century. Gas emissions continue to be at their current pace.
A global warming is weakening the system 1
"Our basic understanding is that the collapse is unlikely," said Delworth, who was not part of the study.
Follow Seth Borenstein on Twitter at @borenbears .
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