Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC)

Gerard McCarthy, David Smeed, Stuart Cunningham, Chris Roberts

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
944 Downloads (Pure)


The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC)
is a system of currents that carries warm, shallow water
northwards and returns cold, deep water southwards
(Figure 1). This exchange of warm water with cold water
which results in the largest transport of heat by any ocean,
the maximum of which occurs near 30ºN in the subtropical
North Atlantic (Bryden and Imawaki, 2001). This ocean heat
transport is a key element of the redistribution of heat by the
climate system. North of 30ºN, the ocean releases its heat to
the atmosphere. It is this release of heat by the ocean and
the delivery of this heat towards the land by the prevailing
winds that is particularly crucial to maintaining the relatively
mild climate of the British and Irish Isles and northwestern
Europe in comparison to similar maritime climates, such
as the west coast of North America. For example, located at
similar latitudes and distances from the ocean, Dublin is over
4ºC warmer than Seattle in winter (McCarthy et al. , 2015a).
The ideas of the ocean maintaining the mild climate of the
British and Irish Isles UK date back to Maury (1855) who
popularised the idea that the Gulf Stream was responsible for
the mild climate. His nomenclature of ‘The Gulf Stream’ (or
sometimes, its extension ‘The North Atlantic Current/Drift’)
live on popularly. However, while the Gulf Stream is the main
conduit of the warm, shallow upper branch of the AMOC,
without the cold, deep return (i.e. without the AMOC) the
heat transported by the ocean would be much diminished.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMarine Climate Change Impacts Partnership: Science Review
Subtitle of host publicationMCCIP Science Review 2017
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2017


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