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Changes in ocean currents could destroy the planet, new study suggests

Published Jul 8th, 2024 6:59PM EDT
Image: MARIMA/Adobe

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A new study published this month has highlighted the growing dangers of changes in ocean currents. According to this new research, weaker circulation in the ocean currents could actually enhance the amount of buildup of CO2 in the atmosphere, speeding up the destruction of the planet by increasing global temperatures.

The changes in the ocean’s overturning circulation are also tied to climate change advances—so it’s kind of like a circle of life type of thing. The slowdown, scientists predict, could mean less pull down of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by the ocean. However, they also predicted that it could mean less carbon dioxide is dredged up from the bottom of the deep ocean.

As such, scientists believed that there could be a balancing effect. But that might not be the full story. In fact, the dangers of changes in ocean currents are still very real, according to a new study. The new research was headed by MIT researchers and published in Nature Communications. While things appear to remain balanced to some, as the circulation continues to slow, it may actually release more of that carbon stored at the bottom of the deep ocean.

Arctic carbon emissions are driven by this river's runoffImage source: NASA Earth Observatory image by Jesse Allen using Landsat data from USGS

This, of course, spells bad news for us, as carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, and that means that it will ultimately help trap more heat in the Earth’s atmosphere. A subsequent result of that will be continued rising global temperatures—possible thawing of ancient ice shelves and rising sea levels that could decimate the coastlines of countries worldwide.

The reason this new study believes that the changes in the ocean current could actually cause more dredging of that deep ocean carbon is because of the overall balance between iron, carbon, nutrients, surface microorganisms, and a class of molecules known as “ligands.” The dangers of slowing ocean currents all come into play because slower currents mean fundamental changes to these key players and the amount of carbon they also release into the ocean.

Ultimately, this means that the ocean outgases more carbon back to the atmosphere. The researchers say it completely overturns what we thought was going on with the ocean, and that we need to be proactive in finding ways to cut the emissions now, so that we can buy more time to mitigate the climate change issue.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.