The Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica makes up less than a third of the global ocean surface, yet scientists believe it “plays an outsized role in the climate system,” according to a 2021 journal article in Geophysical Research Letters. Water and currents from other oceans meet here, allowing for heat and carbon transfer as this body of water connects the ocean and atmosphere.

Scientists have long believed the Southern Ocean to be a crucial carbon sink, but recent data is raising questions about whether the Southern Ocean may not actually be quite as much of a carbon sink as they once thought. To learn more and broaden their understanding, they are using new technology to collect additional data – especially during the seldom-surveyed winter season.

“The Southern Ocean is a really interesting place,” says oceanographer Adrienne Sutton, who works for NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory. “It…

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