25.5 billion measurements: the bottom of the Southern Ocean was shown for the first time in unprecedented detail

Features of the ocean floor help to determine how water masses move, ocean currents and how they affect

Earth's climate.Landforms also influence biodiversity. For oceanographic and climate studies, it is essential to have as accurate information as possible on the topography of the seafloor. An international team of researchers recently released the best and most detailed map for the Southern Ocean.

International Bathymetric Chart of the Southern Ocean(IBCSO, International Bathymetric Chart of the Southern Ocean) is an international project coordinated by the AWI Center for Polar and Marine Research, which aims to chart the Southern Ocean. The first IBCSO digital bathymetric model (IBCSO v1) and a high-resolution map south of 60°S were released in 2013. Since then, the amount of new measurement data has increased significantly.

Photo in full resolution at the link.
Credit: Scientific Data (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41597-022-01366-7

Since 2017, IBCSO has been part of the Nippon projectFoundation - GEBCO Seabed 2030 (General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans). It has an ambitious goal of exploring all the world's oceans by 2030. The new version of IBCSO - IBCSO v2 - for the Southern Ocean covers all the territory south of the 50th parallel. The mapped seabed is 2.4 times larger than in the first version and at a high resolution of 500 by 500 meters. As a result, the Antarctic Circumpolar Current and the key oceanographic "gates" necessary for understanding it - the Drake Passage and the Tasmanian Strait - are fully explored. The map is based on over 25.5 billion measurements provided by 88 institutions in 22 countries.

Southern Ocean surrounding the Antarctic continent— a key region for the formation of the global climate. Here, the Antarctic Circumpolar Current is a key element in the globe-spanning thermohaline circulation. It affects ocean currents in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans. In addition, the cold water of the Southern Ocean absorbs huge amounts of CO₂ and heat from the atmosphere, creating a temporary buffer against many of the negative effects of anthropogenic climate change. In addition, these waters are characterized by high biological productivity and are home to unique species diversity.

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