7:08 AM PDT, August 14, 2021
Could the Gulf Stream collapse? It’s one of the possibilities laid out in a recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
CBS News Meteorologist and Climate Specialist Jeff Berardelli spoke about the AMOC, which stands for the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, which is otherwise known as the Gulf Stream system, and why it’s important.
“Now the Gulf Stream is really important because it carries all that excess heat from the equator and from the Caribbean, that area, and pushes it towards the poles,” he told Inside Edition Digital.
“So essentially is the mechanism in the oceans that balances the imbalance in heating from the poles to the equator,” he said. “So it sends that heat north. It is responsible for transporting 20% of the heat on earth from the equator towards the poles.”
He also spoke about it possibly breaking down.
“So imagine if that system breaks down. Well, it’s breaking down. The system has slowed down considerably since 1950,” he said. “And just a few years ago the IPCC was saying, well, it’s probably going to be hundreds of years, probably, before this conveyor belt collapses.”
But now, Berardelli said, scientists say that unthinkable possibility may now happen. And sooner than expected.
“Now they’re saying there’s only medium confidence that it won’t collapse, possibly in our lifetime,” he said. “So there is a chance that it could. And there was a study that just came out a few days ago saying, Hey, it may not be hundreds of years. We’re seeing the warning signs of instability in the Gulf Stream system, and it is possible that we are, in fact, headed for collapse.”
If this happened, this would throw weather systems completely off-kilter, Berardelli added.
“It will cause droughts in places that haven’t been experiencing droughts,” he said. “It will make droughts in places that are having it already much worse. It’ll cause places to get colder in the Northern hemisphere, believe it or not, it’s just going to throw everything completely off-kilter. So this is a big impact event if it were to happen.”
“if we keep putting the pedal to the metal on burning fossil fuels, that is something that will eventually happen,” he said. “Hopefully not in our lifetime.”