EGU General Assembly 2022
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

The climate impacts of an abrupt AMOC weakening on the European winters 

Katinka Bellomo1,2, Virna Meccia3, Roberta D'Agostino4, Federico Fabiano3, Jost von Hardenberg1,2, and Susanna Corti3
Katinka Bellomo et al.
  • 1Polytechnic of Turin, Turin, Italy
  • 2National Research Council, Institute of Atmospheric Sciences and Climate, Turin, Italy
  • 3National Research Council, Institute of Atmospheric Sciences and Climate, Bologna, Italy
  • 4Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Hamburg,Germany

The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) is thought to exist in multiple states of equilibria. In the present climate, the AMOC is believed to be in a relatively strong state, bringing warm waters into the North Atlantic and contributing to mild winters over Europe. However, proxy data show evidence of abrupt declines in the strength of the AMOC, often associated with the initiation of ice ages. The abrupt shifts in the strength of the AMOC are usually referred to as ‘tipping points’. Presently, state-of-the-art climate models are unable to spontaneously reproduce tipping points in the AMOC, preventing an accurate study of the climate impacts of an abrupt AMOC shutdown. Contextually, although it is deemed unlikely that the AMOC will collapse in response to climate change, it is expected to further slow down into the 21st century. The impacts of this weakening, relative to those of global warming, are poorly understood, especially on daily timescales.

            To address this question, we run water hosing experiments with the EC-Earth3 earth system model to investigate the impacts of an AMOC abrupt weakening on the winter climate variability focusing on the North Atlantic and Europe. We confirm results from previous studies showing a large decrease in temperature, precipitation, and an increase in the jet stream over Europe. However, we further investigate the moisture budget and the impacts on daily weather regimes and blocking. In contrast to previous hypotheses, we find that the reduction in precipitation over Europe is due to changes in the storm tracks rather than thermodynamic effects. Further, we find a significant increase in the frequency and persistence of NAO+ days. Finally, we show precipitation and temperature extremes that are expected in response to the AMOC weakening.

            Our results show the climate impacts on weather events that can be expected from an AMOC weakening alone, and are relevant to understanding the relative roles of greenhouse gas forcing and AMOC weakening on the European climate in simulations of future climate change.

How to cite: Bellomo, K., Meccia, V., D'Agostino, R., Fabiano, F., von Hardenberg, J., and Corti, S.: The climate impacts of an abrupt AMOC weakening on the European winters , EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-1023,, 2022.