A ‘global conveyor belt’ stirs the oceans from top to bottom, with surface currents transporting warm water to the poles while cold water in the depths flows back to the tropics. But it operates in fits and starts, with the strength of the currents varying widely. Eager for a better understanding of how the vagaries of the conveyor belt shape weather and climate, oceanographers are planning two new large-scale projects to watch over Atlantic currents.
An array of instruments between Florida and the Canary Islands has been continuously monitoring the strength of the North Atlantic portion of the global conveyor belt since 2004. In December, if all goes well, an international project led by the United States will begin another set of continuous measurements of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), using an array of sensors strung between South Africa and Argentina. And this month, US and British funding agencies are set to decide whether they will support a new surface-to-bottom monitoring array between Labrador in Canada and Scotland, UK. The United Kingdom will also decide whether to continue operating the existing array.