The North Atlantic Ocean Is in a State of Reduced Overturning

D. A. Smeed, S. A. Josey, C. Beaulieu, W. E. Johns, B. I. Moat, E. Frajka-Williams, D. Rayner, C. S. Meinen, M. O. Baringer, H. L. Bryden, G. D. McCarthy

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59 Scopus citations


The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) is responsible for a variable and climatically important northward transport of heat. Using data from an array of instruments that span the Atlantic at 26°N, we show that the AMOC has been in a state of reduced overturning since 2008 as compared to 2004–2008. This change of AMOC state is concurrent with other changes in the North Atlantic such as a northward shift and broadening of the Gulf Stream and altered patterns of heat content and sea surface temperature. These changes resemble the response to a declining AMOC predicted by coupled climate models. Concurrent changes in air-sea fluxes close to the western boundary reveal that the changes in ocean heat transport and sea surface temperature have altered the pattern of ocean-atmosphere heat exchange over the North Atlantic. These results provide strong observational evidence that the AMOC is a major factor in decadal-scale variability of North Atlantic climate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1527-1533
Number of pages7
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 16 2018


  • AMOC
  • Atlantic
  • circulation
  • overturning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)

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    Smeed, D. A., Josey, S. A., Beaulieu, C., Johns, W. E., Moat, B. I., Frajka-Williams, E., Rayner, D., Meinen, C. S., Baringer, M. O., Bryden, H. L., & McCarthy, G. D. (2018). The North Atlantic Ocean Is in a State of Reduced Overturning. Geophysical Research Letters, 45(3), 1527-1533.