Exceptional twentieth-century slowdown in Atlantic Ocean overturning circulation

Stefan Rahmstorf, Jason E. Box, Georg Feulner, Michael E. Mann, Alexander Robinson, Scott Rutherford, Erik J. Schaffernicht

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

524 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Possible changes in Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) provide a key source of uncertainty regarding future climate change. Maps of temperature trends over the twentieth century show a conspicuous region of cooling in the northern Atlantic. Here we present multiple lines of evidence suggesting that this cooling may be due to a reduction in the AMOC over the twentieth century and particularly after 1970. Since 1990 the AMOC seems to have partly recovered. This time evolution is consistently suggested by an AMOC index based on sea surface temperatures, by the hemispheric temperature difference, by coral-based proxies and by oceanic measurements. We discuss a possible contribution of the melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet to the slowdown. Using a multi-proxy temperature reconstruction for the AMOC index suggests that the AMOC weakness after 1975 is an unprecedented event in the past millennium (p > 0.99). Further melting of Greenland in the coming decades could contribute to further weakening of the AMOC.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)475-480
Number of pages6
JournalNature Climate Change
Volume5
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 28 May 2015

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 5: Nature and Climate

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