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NASA: North Atlantic 'Cold Blob' May be Culprit Behind Ocean Current Slowdown

By By Mark Leberfinger, Staff Writer
November 20, 2015, 8:15:37 AM EST

A major player in the transportation of heat in the Atlantic Ocean is slowing down and may affect higher latitude climates in the Northern Hemisphere, according to a NASA analysis of satellite data.

The "cold blob” that developed off Greenland may be the drag on the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) by producing very chilly to record cold water, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said earlier this year.


Global warming may be responsible for AMOC’s slowdown but natural forces may also be at work, NASA said. AMOC is part of the complex circulation of currents that help take the warmer Gulf Stream water and move it through the basin.

Data from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites correspond with similar findings that were not satellite-based. The GRACE findings were published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

An AMOC slowdown would impact other currents throughout the Atlantic.

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"If the Gulf Stream and correspondingly other currents in the Atlantic weaken, then it could change long-term temperature patterns all around the Atlantic basin," AccuWeather Chief Meteorologist Elliot Abrams said.

That may make temperatures lower in cities such as London, Amsterdam, Paris and Lisbon.

Buoy data from the winter of 2009-10 estimated a similar slowdown, but it’s the first look at the circulation from space, which also showed the slowdown extending several thousand miles north and south of the buoy's latitude of 26 degrees North, NASA said.

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