Science & Technology

Due to climate change, one of the strongest currents in the world is flowing faster.

Changes in the Antarctic Ocean, absorbing the world’s most anthropogenic warming, are detected by new technologies

Peer-reviewed publications

University of California, San Diego

Image: Researchers release Argofloat into the Southern Ocean See more

The only ocean current that orbits the planet, the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC), is accelerating. For the first time, scientists can see that this is happening by taking advantage of decades of observational records.

Researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, University of California, Riverside, University of California, San Diego were collected by satellite measurements of sea level and a global network of undersea called Argo. Using the data, the Antarctic oceanographic speed that was previously hidden by scientists.

The team representing the National Science Foundation-sponsored Antarctic Carbon and Climate Observation and Modeling (SOCCOM) project will report its findings in the November 29 issue of the Journal. Natural climate change..

As the climate warmed, westerlies became predominant. The model shows that speeding up the wind does not change the current much. Rather, it energizes the vortex of the ocean. It is the circulation of water that flows against the main flow.

“Both observations and models show that changes in ocean heat have caused significant current accelerations detected over the last few decades,” said a former Scripps Institutional Physician. Jia-RuiShi, a postdoctoral researcher at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, said. ..

“This acceleration of ACC, especially jets centered on the subantarctic front, facilitates the exchange of properties such as heat and carbon between the basins, creating opportunities for these properties to increase in subterranean subtropical regions.”

ACC surrounds Antarctica and separates the cold waters of Antarctica from the warm subtropical waters north of it. This warm part of the Southern Ocean absorbs much of the heat that human activity puts on the Earth’s atmosphere. For this reason, scientists believe it is important to understand the dynamics of what happens there, as it can affect the climate everywhere else.

Ocean warming patterns are important. Increasing the amount of gradient or heat difference between hot and cold water accelerates the current between these two masses.

“ACC is primarily wind driven, but surprisingly it shows that the change in velocity is primarily due to changes in the thermal gradient,” said Lynn, a physical oceanographer at Scripps Oceanography.・ Tally states.

Long-term data on changes in the Antarctic Ocean were difficult to obtain before satellite-based equipment and algo networks became available. The network of autonomous floats that measure ocean conditions such as temperature and salt began in 1999 and reached full capacity in 2007. With the full complement of 4,000 floats around the world, data continues to be collected to this day. Therefore, researchers have been able to distinguish accelerating current trends from natural fluctuations using comprehensive algo data for more than a decade.

The co-authors of the study noted that as the Antarctic Ocean continues to absorb heat from anthropogenic global warming, the rate of current may increase further.

In addition to Shi and Talley, the research team included Shang-Ping Xie, a climate scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Qihua Peng at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Wei Liu at UC Riverside.



Natural climate change


10.1038 / s41558-021-01212-5

Survey method

Data / statistical analysis

Research target

Not applicable

Article title

Ocean warming and accelerating zonal flows in the Antarctic Ocean

Article publication date

November 29, 2021

From EurekAlert!

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Due to climate change, one of the strongest currents in the world is flowing faster. Due to climate change, one of the strongest currents in the world is flowing faster.

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