The team, led by Dr Alberto Naveira Garabato of the University of Southampton's School of Ocean and Earth Science and the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, has found a 'short-circuit' in the circulation of the world's oceans that could aid predictions about future climate change.
This process in the Southern Ocean allows cold waters that sink to the abyss to return to the surface more rapidly than previously thought.
This affects the Southern Ocean circulation, which links all the other oceans, and is also relevant to uptake and release of carbon dioxide by the sea – transport between the deep and surface waters in the Southern Ocean is particularly important for this process.
Understanding oceanic circulation is important because it distributes heat, carbon and nutrients around the globe and therefore plays a central role in regulating Earth's climate.
The findings show that much of the overturning circulation - how water moves and mixes vertically - around Antarctica takes place just around the tip of South America and in the small region in the Atlantic south of the Falklands, called the Scotia Sea.
Co-author Prof Andrew Watson, from the University of East Anglia’s School of Environmental Sciences, said they were fundamental findings.
“The Southern Ocean is the least well understood part of the world ocean, but one of the most important parts. We are going to have to understand its circulation before we can make really confident predictions about how the climate is going to change over the next 100 years.
“This is a piece of knowledge that will help us do that. This tells us how an important part of it works”
Dr Naveira Garabato said they represented an important shift in how scientists think that the ocean circulation is driven.
"For many years, oceanographers have regarded the circulation in the upper kilometre of the ocean as being independent of that in the abyss. Our observations show that the two are very much intertwined in the Southern Ocean, and that this has substantial implications for how we represent the ocean in climate models."
The research shows that a combination of rapid mixing across and rapid movement along density surfaces creates a 'short-circuit' in the overturning circulation, meaning it is more concentrated in this part of the Southern Ocean.
The researchers made use of a unique signal - the spread of helium released naturally from the Earth’s interior at deep vents in the Pacific. The helium dissolves in the deep sea and a plume of this marked water travels down the coast of Chile. It is injected at depth into the Antarctic current on the Pacific side of Cape Horn.
It then streams through into the Atlantic with the current, but in the process is spread, shifted and diffused by the circulation. Measurements of this spreading of the helium were used to deduce the ‘short-circuit’.
Dr David Stevens, from UEA’s School of Mathematics, and Wolfgang Roether, from the University of Bremen, Germany, are also co-authors.
Press Office | alfa
Multi-year submarine-canyon study challenges textbook theories about turbidity currents
12.12.2017 | Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
How do megacities impact coastal seas? Searching for evidence in Chinese marginal seas
11.12.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung Warnemünde
MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.
Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...
Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...
Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.
To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...
The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.
Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...
With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong
Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
07.12.2017 | Event News
14.12.2017 | Health and Medicine
14.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
14.12.2017 | Life Sciences