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Evolution of Southern Ocean temperature and Antarctic circumpolar circulation.

Project Description

The flow of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) through the Drake Passage is the primary conduit for modern surface and deep-water communication between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. This connection is an essential component of global overturning circulation and significantly impacts climate on both regional and global scales. The tectonic history the Scotia Sea between South America and the Antarctic Peninsula is complex [1], and the timing of the opening of the Drake Passage through the Scotia Sea is highly uncertain due to controversy in tectonic reconstructions and seafloor ages – with estimates spanning the middle Eocene to middle Miocene (~10 to 45 million years ago). This uncertainty, combined with unreliable temperature records across the same time interval, makes it impossible to rigorously assess the impact of Drake Passage opening on Southern Ocean cooling and the onset of Antarctic glaciation.

This project aims to construct robust Southern Ocean temperature records for the Eocene-to-Miocene interval in combination with determining the precise timing of increased transport of circumpolar deep waters through the Drake Passage. The results of the project will test long-standing hypotheses proposing direct links between Southern Ocean gateway opening, ACC development, and Antarctic ice-sheet development as a result of cooling.


[1] Eagles, G., and Jokat, W., 2014. Tectonic reconstructions for paleobathymetry in Drake Passage. Tectonophysics, 611: 28–50. doi:10.1016/j.tecto.2013.11.021

[2] Elderfield, H., Greaves, M., Barker, S., Hall, I.R., Tripati, A.K., Ferretti, P., Crowhurst, S.J., Booth, L., and Daunt, C., 2010. A record of bottom water temperature and seawater δ18O for the Southern Ocean over the past 440kyr based on Mg/Ca of benthic foraminiferal Uvigerina spp. Quaternary Science Reviews, 29(1-2), 160-169.

[3] Scher, H. D. and Martin, E.E., 2006. Timing and climatic consequences of the opening of Drake Passage. Science, 312(5772), 428-430. doi:10.1126/science.1120044

How good is research at University of Southampton in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 68.62

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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