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Could a slowing Gulf Stream bring Florida more flooding? UMiami study will find out

Could climate change cause the collapse of a critical ocean current that influences everything from sea levels in South Florida to monsoons in the Pacific and temperatures in Europe?

On Tuesday morning, University of Miami scientists boarded a ship bound for the Bahamas to help answer that question. The team, led by UM oceanography professor Lisa Beal, will monitor conditions in the Florida Current, a piece of the Gulf Stream that feeds into another key current that helps distribute heat throughout the Atlantic Ocean.

This conveyor belt of ocean heat may be on the verge of collapse, according to a hotly debated study published in the prestigious research journal Nature last month, which grabbed global headlines by predicting that this disaster would chaotically reshape weather patterns around the world.

Monitoring the strength of Florida Current will help scientists figure out whether or not that conveyor belt, known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), is actually slowing down.

“It will give us another clue as to whether we think changes going on in the Gulf Stream are consistent with a weakening of the Overturning Circulation,” said Beal.

One of the potential consequences of a weakening Florida Current could be higher sea levels and more sunny day flooding in Miami, along with the rest of the U.S. east coast and the Bahamas, Beal said. But she said scientists can’t be sure until they can measure what’s going on within the current.