On the heels of the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report (3/20/23), which featured scientists running out of ways to emphasize how urgently deep cuts in fossil fuel use are needed, a troubling new climate study has emerged. Published in the prominent peer-reviewed science journal Nature (3/29/23), the study found that a little-studied deep ocean circulation system is slowing dramatically, and could collapse this century. One IPCC author not involved in the study declared it “headline news.” Unfortunately, science doesn’t guide US corporate media, which were virtually silent on the landmark study.
The authors modeled the effects of Antarctic meltwater on deep ocean currents crucial to marine ecosystems. Similar to the more well-studied Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) that the Gulf Stream is a part of, and which is also known to be dangerously weakening, the Antarctic overturning circulation has major planetary impacts. It pushes nutrient-dense water from the ocean floor up toward the surface, where those nutrients support marine life. The Nature study, which also refers to the current as the Antarctic Bottom Water, found that this circulation system is projected to slow down 42% by 2050, with a total collapse “this century,” according to study co-author Matthew England (CNN.com, 3/29/23).
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