The meridional overturning circulation of the ocean plays a central role in climate and climate variability by storing and transporting heat, fresh water and carbon around the globe. Historically, the focus of research has been on the North Atlantic Basin, a primary site where water sinks from the surface to depth, triggered by loss of heat, and therefore buoyancy, to the atmosphere. A key part of the overturning puzzle, however, is the return path from the interior ocean to the surface through upwelling in the Southern Ocean. This return path is largely driven by winds. It has become clear over the past few years that the importance of Southern Ocean upwelling for our understanding of climate rivals that of North Atlantic downwelling, because it controls the rate at which ocean reservoirs of heat and carbon communicate with the surface.
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We would like to thank our many colleagues for discussions and comments during the writing of this Review: in particular, R. Abernathey, E. Boyle, J-M. Campin, D. Ferreira, R. Ferrari, M. Follows, P. Huybers, D. Marshall, D. McGee, R. Toggweiler, R. Tulloch and A. Watson. Thanks also to N. Wienders, R. Tulloch and R. Windman for help in preparation of the figures. This study was supported by the Polar Programs section of the National Science Foundation.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
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Marshall, J., Speer, K. Closure of the meridional overturning circulation through Southern Ocean upwelling. Nature Geosci 5, 171–180 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1038/ngeo1391
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