The South­ern Ocean

Science Illustrated - - NATURE/ CIRCUMPOLAR OCEAN -

The South­ern Ocean sur­rounds Antarc­tica, link­ing the At­lantic, the Pa­cific, and the In­dian Oceans. So, it is cen­tral to the global ocean cir­cu­la­tion.

The South­ern Ocean, which cov­ers an area of 20,327,000 km2, in­cludes typ­i­cal depths of 4-5,000 m. The South­ern Ocean is dominated by the Antarc­tic Cir­cum­po­lar Cur­rent, which is a cold, east­erly cur­rent flow­ing 21,000 km around the world. The ocean cur­rent is the most pow­er­ful in the world – car­ry­ing a wa­ter vol­ume of 130 mil­lion m3 per sec­ond, i.e. 130 times the wa­ter flow of all rivers of the world, and it is about four times as pow­er­ful as the Gulf Stream. The cir­cum­po­lar cur­rent is fu­elled by the pow­er­ful zone of pre­vail­ing west­er­lies, which also en­cir­cles the world. It is a belt of stormy low pres­sures like the one that we know from the North At­lantic – only much more vi­o­lent, pro­vid­ing the re­gion with names such as the “Roar­ing For­ties”, the “Fu­ri­ous Fifties”, and the “Shriek­ing Six­ties”.

Near the coast, huge ice vol­umes are pro­duced in the win­ter. When the ocean wa­ter freezes, salt is shed, mak­ing the wa­ter un­der the ice salty and heavy.

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