Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Will North Atlantic threshold response to ocean changes be enough?

Predictions that the 21st century is safe from major circulation changes in the North Atlantic Ocean may not be as comforting as they seem, according to a Penn State researcher.

"The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that it is very unlikely that the North Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (MOC) will collapse in the 21st century. They predict a probability of less then 10 percent," says Klaus Keller, assistant professor of geosciences.

"However, this should not be interpreted as an all clear signal. There can be a considerable delay between the triggering of an MOC collapse and the actual collapse. In a similar way, a person that has just jumped from a cliff may take comfort that pain in the next few seconds is very unlikely, but the outlook over the long term is less rosy."

Keller and his colleagues analyzed a possible threshold response for the MOC. A threshold response occurs when a system reacts in a highly nonlinear and potentially abrupt way. For example, a paddler can tip a canoe quite a bit without getting wet. However, pushing that canoe just a bit further can result in a wet paddler. The impacts of pushing the canoe to the side are negligible until the very last small push triggers the overturning of the canoe in a threshold response.

The MOC may also respond to human-made greenhouse gas emissions in a threshold response. The research projects sizeable impacts on patterns of surface air temperatures and precipitation, fisheries and terrestrial ecosystems if a slowdown or complete collapse of the MOC occurs.

"Currently, MOC projections are deeply uncertain. This uncertainty puts a large value on observation systems that could deliver an actionable early warning of an MOC collapse," Keller said today (Feb. 17) at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston. "The problem is that information that arrives after the threshold response has been triggered is only of very limited use. For example, warning a person in a canoe about an approaching waterfall can be useful before the waterfall, but is not really useful after the canoe went over the waterfall.

"The problem with the potential MOC collapse is that the signs of an approaching threshold response are very subtle to detect. The noise is large and picking out the signal from the noise is non trivial," he adds.

"There is tantalizing evidence for a recent MOC slow down. However, this is not an open-and-shut case," Keller continues.

The researchers analyzed how they could improve MOC observation systems to result in more skillful MOC projections. For example, optimizing the locations of the observation system can considerably improve the projections.

Improved MOC projections can enable improved climate policies and can have economic value. Keller and colleagues show that investments into an MOC observation system that would provide an early warning of an approaching MOC collapse would likely pass a cost benefit test.

Andrea Elyse Messer | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?
19.02.2018 | Universität Basel

nachricht Removing fossil fuel subsidies will not reduce CO2 emissions as much as hoped
08.02.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

Im Focus: Radar for navigation support from autonomous flying drones

At the ILA Berlin, hall 4, booth 202, Fraunhofer FHR will present two radar sensors for navigation support of drones. The sensors are valuable components in the implementation of autonomous flying drones: they function as obstacle detectors to prevent collisions. Radar sensors also operate reliably in restricted visibility, e.g. in foggy or dusty conditions. Due to their ability to measure distances with high precision, the radar sensors can also be used as altimeters when other sources of information such as barometers or GPS are not available or cannot operate optimally.

Drones play an increasingly important role in the area of logistics and services. Well-known logistic companies place great hope in these compact, aerial...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

International Virtual Reality Conference “IEEE VR 2018” comes to Reutlingen, Germany

08.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Wandering greenhouse gas

16.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

'Frequency combs' ID chemicals within the mid-infrared spectral region

16.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Biologists unravel another mystery of what makes DNA go 'loopy'

16.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>