Southern Ocean processes, variability and change

A giant yellow buoy is deployed from the ship’s trawl deck
A large buoy - part of an ocean mooring - being deployed.
Photo: Wendy Pyper

The circulation of the Southern Ocean influences climate, sea level, biogeochemical (nutrient) cycles and biological productivity at regional and global scales. A change in the circulation of the Southern Ocean is expected to have large and widespread effects, including a reduced ability of the ocean to absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide. However a lack of observations makes it difficult to document and interpret patterns of change.

This research stream is focusing on two key questions:

  • How and why are the Southern Ocean circulation and water properties changing?
  • What is the impact of circulation changes on other parts of the climate system?
Hauling the conductivity-temperature-depth (CTD) instrument aboard
A conductivity-temperature-depth (CTD) instrument for measuring ocean properties.
Photo: AAD

Research is investigating dynamic processes such as eddies, air-sea-ice interactions, water mass formation, the structure and variability of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current and mixing between the Southern Ocean and lower latitude waters. It also includes sustained observation of Southern Ocean circulation patterns using remote sensing technology (such as satellites), ship-based measurements and ocean moorings.

If scientists can replicate current conditions and reproduce patterns of past oceanic change (through modelling) as a result of this work, they will be better able to project future change.

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This page was last modified on 27 September 2013.