Past, present, and future changes in the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation

Meric Srokosz, M. Baringer, H. Bryden, Stuart Cunningham, T. Delworth, S. Lozier, J. Marotzke, R. Sutton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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Abstract

Observations and numerical modeling experiments provide evidence for links between variability in the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) and global climate patterns. Reduction in the strength of the overturning circulation is thought to have played a key role in rapid climate change in the past and may have the potential to significantly influence climate change in the future, as noted in the last two Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment reports (Houghton et al.; Solomon et al.). Both IPCC reports also highlighted the significant uncertainties that exist regarding the future behavior of the AMOC under global warming. Model results suggest that changes in the AMOC can impact surface air temperature, precipitation patterns, and sea level, particularly in areas bordering the North Atlantic, thus affecting human populations. Here, the current understanding of past, present, and future changes in the AMOC and the effects of such changes on climate are reviewed. The focus is on observations of the AMOC, how the AMOC influences climate, and in what way the AMOC is likely to change over the next few decades and the twenty-first century. The potential for decadal prediction of the AMOC is also discussed. Finally, the outstanding challenges and possible future directions for AMOC research are outlined.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1663-1676
Number of pages13
JournalBulletin of the American Meteorological Society
Volume93
Issue number11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2012

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