Southern Ocean processes, variability and change
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?
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.
- ACE CRC Southern Ocean circulation research
- Latest climate information from the Department of Industry Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) website
- Australia’s Contribution to Antarctic Climate Science (2008 report) - The Southern Ocean
- Australian Antarctic Magazine article Science thrown overboard