Current events

Undersea mountains in the Drake Passage cause oceanic turbulence, altering long-term climate patterns

Written by      

Maxim Nikurashin

When circumpolar currents surge from the Pacific through the Drake Passage between South America and Antarctica, scientists have discovered that they strike underwater remnants of the Andes creating intense turbulence. This mixes the dense waters deep in the Southern Ocean vertically with waters above, carrying atmospheric carbon dioxide back into the depths and affecting how heat is carried to the poles.

The scientists poured chemical tracer into the ocean at various locations and tracked its path over a few years to reveal the patterns of mixing and better understand its contribution to the Earth’s climate.

Another example of deep-water ‘mixers’ are the colossal underwater waves formed from water of different densities that funnel through the Samoan Passage every second, breaking over underwater mountains in waves 300 metres high just as surf crashes on to a beach.

More by