Monday, February 25, 2013

New Source Found For Cold, Deep Antarctic Currents

Seals helped scientists track cold, deep currents in Antarctica.

With help from seals, scientists have discovered a new source for the coldest, deepest water in the ocean.

Instruments glued to seals' heads tracked Antarctic Bottom Water flowing down deep canyons off Cape Darnley in East Antarctica. The spot was an unexpected font of the bottom water — cold, dense, salty water — because it lacks the broad underwater shelf of the unique current's three known sources. 

These shallow shelves stick out from the continent's edge. Cold water flows over the edge to the abyssal depths like a frigid underwater waterfall.

Finding the Cape Darnley bottom water, which accounts for about 10 percent of the world's Antarctic Bottom Water, solves a long-standing problem. The amount of cold water coming from Antarctica exceeded that from the three other sites.

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