Arctic sea ice is likely more important than we previously thought. New research is showing that it likely affects the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (Figure 1).
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) is a vastly important system of water circulation. It distributes Earth’s energy and is a major controller of global climate. This energy distribution is the reason Northern Ireland has such warmer weather than Alberta, Canada, despite occupying similar latitudes.
New research is showing that Arctic sea ice (Figure 2), which has been drastically reduced by anthropogenic global warming (Stroeve et al., 2014), plays an important role in the stability of the AMOC.
“In our experiments we saw a potential loss of 30% to 50% of AMOC’s strength due to Arctic sea ice loss. That is a significant amount, and it would accelerate the collapse of AMOC if it were to occur.”
“We suggest that Arctic changes on a multi-decadal timescale, such as the decline in sea ice cover that we are currently experiencing, is the most efficient way to weaken the large-scale ocean circulation of the North Atlantic…”