From: David Fogarty, Reuters
Published April 26, 2010 05:51 AM

Scientists find fastest deep ocean current near Antarctica

Scientists have discovered a fast-moving deep ocean current with the volume of 40 Amazon Rivers near Antarctica that will help researchers monitor the impacts of climate change on the world's oceans.

A team of Australian and Japanese scientists, in a study published in Sunday's issue of the journal Nature Geoscience, found that the current is a key part of a global ocean circulation pattern that helps control the planet's climate.

Scientists had previously detected evidence of the current but had no data on it.


"We didn't know if it was a significant part of the circulation or not and this shows clearly that it is," one of the authors, Steve Rintoul, told Reuters.

Rintoul, of the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Center in Hobart, said it proved to be the fastest deep ocean current yet found, with an average speed of 20 cm (7.9 inches) a second. It was also found to carry more than 12 million cubic meters a second of very cold, salty water from Antarctica.

"At these depths, below three kilometers (two miles) from the surface, these are the strongest recorded speeds we've seen so far, which was really a surprise to us."

He said the current carries dense, oxygen-rich water that sinks near Antarctica to the deep ocean basins further north around the Kerguelen Plateau in the southern Indian Ocean and then branches out.

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