Sustainable Observations of the AMOC: Methodology and Technology

G. D. Mccarthy, P. J. Brown, C. N. Flagg, G. Goni, L. Houpert, C. W. Hughes, R. Hummels, M. Inall, K. Jochumsen, K. M. H. Larsen, P. Lherminier, C. S. Meinen, B. I. Moat, D. Rayner, M. Rhein, A. Roessler, C. Schmid, D. A. Smeed

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The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) is a key mechanism of heat, freshwater, and carbon redistribution in the climate system. The precept that the AMOC has changed abruptly in the past, notably during and at the end of the last ice age, and that it is “very likely” to weaken in the coming century due to anthropogenic climate change is a key motivation for sustained observations of the AMOC. This paper reviews the methodology and technology used to observe the AMOC and assesses these ideas and systems for accuracy, shortcomings, potential improvements, and sustainability. We review hydrographic techniques and look at how these traditional techniques can meet modern requirements. Transport mooring arrays (TMAs) provide the “gold standard” for sustained AMOC observing, utilizing dynamic height, current meter, and other instrumentation and techniques to produce continuous observations of the AMOC. We consider the principle of these systems and how they can be sustained and improved into the future. Techniques utilizing indirect measurements, such as satellite altimetry, coupled with in situ measurements, such as the Argo float array, are also discussed. Existing technologies that perhaps have not been fully exploited for estimating AMOC are reviewed and considered for this purpose. Technology is constantly evolving, and we look to the future of technology and how it can be deployed for sustained and expanded AMOC measurements. Finally, all of these methodologies and technologies are considered with a view to a sustained and sustainable future for AMOC observation.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages34
JournalReviews of Geophysics
Issue number1
Early online date23 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jan 2020


  • Ocean Observing
  • AMOC
  • Ocean Circulation


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