Ice-ocean interaction and the Southern Ocean freshwater budget
Photo: Mike Craven
Changes to the freshwater balance of the Southern Ocean could affect the strength of the global overturning circulation. This circulation (also known as the thermohaline circulation) is the dominant mechanism for transporting heat around the world’s oceans, which means it has a strong influence on global and regional climates. Increased freshwater in the Southern Ocean (due to ice sheet melt, ice shelf collapse and sea ice melt) could cause a slowing in the overturning circulation, driving an abrupt change in climate.
Research in this stream is focussing on two key questions:
- How will a warming ocean affect floating ice shelves, ice tongues and sea ice around Antarctica?
- How will changes in ice melt and other processes affect ocean stability and the overturning circulation?
The research feeds into:
- IPCC Fifth Assessment Report
- Australia’s National Framework for Climate Change Science
- United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (Kyoto Protocol)
- World Climate Research Program – Climate and Cryosphere project
- SCAR Antarctica and the global climate system