Motivation

For most of this chapter, we will limit our attention to the aforementioned AMOC, which represents a circulation pattern most relevant for marine and terrestrial climates in many ways:

(i) The AMOC represents a mechanism of long-term 'memory' in the climate system.

(ii) The AMOC is the most important oceanic flow component for meridional redistribution of heat.

(iii) The AMOC is an important pathway for the oceans' uptake of anthropogenic greenhouse gases and for the ventilation of the deep ocean interior.

(iv) The vigour of the AMOC and the associated heat transport are thought to experience a reduction between 30% and 50% over the next century as a consequence of global warming.

Taken together, highly possible long-term changes in the AMOC are thought both to be indicative of climate change and to contribute to climate change. Because of this the AMOC represents a subject of active ongoing research involving observations and numerical modelling. In the following, we outline the AMOC's the relevance for climate, climate variations and climate change. This is preceded by a description of the underlying pattern of circulation and its potential driving mechanisms. The authors intend to convey that although our knowledge about the AMOC has advanced dramatically over the last few decades, many uncertainties remain yet to be solved.

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