Leading scientists reach milestone anniversary researching the AMOC to better understand climate change

Observing and understanding the changes in the AMOC are critically important for identifying the mechanisms of climate variability

  • Scientists from the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) have set sail on NOC's world-leading research vessel RRS Discovery.
  • This is NOC's 20th anniversary expedition of researching the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), as part of its RAPID programme.
  • This makes the RAPID-AMOC 26°N array one of the longest running, continual sustained deep-ocean observation arrays in the world.
  • The AMOC is the main current system in the South and North Atlantic Oceans and plays an important role in the climate system.

Today (28th March) scientists from the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) embark on the 20th anniversary expedition of researching the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), as part of its RAPID programme. 

The AMOC is the main current system in the South and North Atlantic Oceans and plays an important role in the climate system. The anniversary expedition is part of NOC’s industry leading research programme, RAPID, which observes the AMOC to better evaluate future changes in climate. It is undertaken in collaboration with experts from the University of Miami and National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration in the USA.

The expedition will see NOC’s team service and update the RAPID-AMOC 26°N array, which was first deployed in April 2004. This makes it one of the longest running, continual sustained deep-ocean observation arrays in the world. So far observations, using cutting-edge technology and instruments, secured across a section of ocean 5000m deep, have revolutionised the understanding of the AMOC’s variability and documented its impacts on our long term climate and seasonal European weather.

During the first few years of expeditions, NOC’s team demonstrated the feasibility of AMOC observation measurements, provided new insights into the seasonal cycle – ultimately allowing experts around the world to understand climate change in greater depth.

Speaking on the importance of measuring the AMOC, Dr Ben Moat, Expedition Chief Scientist, at NOC, said: “Observing and understanding the changes in the AMOC are critically important for identifying the mechanisms of climate variability. This type of sustained observations is necessary for assessing the possibility of future abrupt changes in the AMOC and the subsequent impacts and effects. The AMOC observed at 26N is also critically important as a benchmark to determine the uncertainty in climate model projections of our climate. NOC researchers are working with international partners to develop new climate models to provide better actionable evidence for climate mitigation and adaptation.”

The AMOC is a highly complex system of ocean currents which can have a direct influence on the weather and climate. The importance of the AMOC lies in its ability to move heat over thousands of kilometres from one end of the Atlantic Ocean to another. Even small changes in the strength of the AMOC, and especially the rate at which it transports warm water to the North Atlantic, can bring about large changes in the air temperature and rainfall that we receive in the UK. It can also change rainfall in the Amazon Basin and over central Africa, the strength of hurricanes in the Caribbean, and even the severity of monsoons in southeast Asia.

RAPID has been a continuous international collaboration funded the UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the US National Science Foundation (NSF). It demonstrates the impact of global partnerships, enabled by world leading experts and facilities, and is why we’re the UK’s national centre of excellence for large-scale, long-term sustained oceanographic research.

To find out more about the NOC’s current RAPID expedition, please visit: https://noc.ac.uk/expeditions/dy174-expedition-rapid-east and search social media for #DY174 and #RAPID20.

Download our infographic 

Check out our infographic celebrating 20 years of intensive study of the AMOC, which has seen researchers from around the world collaborate on 38 expeditions!

Click here to download