A vital system of ocean currents may already be headed toward collapse, which would have serious consequences for global weather patterns and rise in sea level, causing temperatures to surge in some regions and drop sharply in others, according to a CNN report.
According to research published in the journal Science Advances, scientists have discovered a novel method for detecting an early warning signal for the collapse of these currents using incredibly sophisticated and costly computing equipment.
Furthermore, there are already signs that the Earth is moving in this direction as it heats up due to global warming.
The Gulf Stream, which is a component of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), is like a massive global conveyor belt, carrying warm water from the tropics toward the far North Atlantic, where it cools, gets saltier and plunges deeply into the ocean before spreading southward.
The currents are essential in maintaining the generally mild temperature throughout most of the Northern Hemisphere and transport heat and nutrients to various parts of the world.
The stability of the circulation has been under threat for decades due to climate change, which heats the ocean and melts ice, disrupting the delicate balance between salt and heat that controls the intensity of the currents.
The AMOC may slow down or possibly stop entirely as a result of climate change, according to many experts.
However, it's still very unclear when and how quickly this may happen.