Abyssal ocean overturning shaped by seafloor distribution

Journal: Nature

Published: 2017-11-09

DOI: 10.1038/nature24472

Affiliations: 4

Authors: 5

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Research Highlight

When scientists look into the abyss …

 © Magnilion/Getty

© Magnilion/Getty

An international team of scientists has modelled the formation of a region of the abyssal ocean, providing deeper insights into the role of oceans in modifying the Earth’s climate, according to a study published in Nature.

Around two kilometres below the surface of the North Pacific Ocean is a region of ancient water that has remained virtually motionless for the past 1,000 years. Known as the ‘shadow zone’, it contains the world’s oldest waters, but how it formed has remained a mystery.

Scientists from Australia and Europe, including researchers from the University of New South Wales, have found that the topography of the ocean floor forces dense water to flow northward at depths of four kilometres and to return southward at shallower depths, forming a shadow zone.

The work has led to a deeper understanding of how the shadow zone influences the ocean’s capacity to influence climate over millennial timescales.


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  1. Nature, 551, 181–186 (2017 doi: 10.1038/nature24472
Institutions Share
University of New South Wales (UNSW Sydney), Australia 0.50
IPSL Laboratory of Oceanography and Climate: Experiments and Numerical Approaches (LOCEAN), France 0.30
Stockholm University, Sweden 0.20