Extraordinary discovery – underwater mountain range in the depths of the Southern Ocean

podwodne pasmo górskie

Although space exploration has made it possible to discover distant planets orbiting stars tens or hundreds of light years away from us, and it might seem that mankind has explored everything, our knowledge of the ocean floor is still insufficient. This is a big gap, considering that seas and oceans cover more than 70 percent. Earth’s surface. The latest discovery is the best proof of this. Researchers have come across an ancient underwater mountain range that hides within the Antarctic Circumpolar Current – the world’s most powerful ocean current.

Discovery of undersea volcanoes

During the research expedition Focus , organized by Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) science agency, a team of 34 scientists set out aboard the Investigator research vessel to explore previously undiscovered regions of the Southern Ocean with an area of 20,000. km2, stretching between Tasmania and the cold waters surrounding Antarctica. It is in this remote part of the world that scientists have undertaken to map the seabed, which in places reaches depths of up to 4,000. m p.p.m.

Using state-of-the-art three-dimensional mapping technology, CSIRO researchers have made a groundbreaking discovery that has changed previous perceptions of the underwater landscape of this part of the globe. In the depths of the Southern Ocean, beneath strong swirling currents, stretches a spectacular mountain range that has remained hidden from the human eye for millions of years. It consists of eight long-dormant undersea volcanoes, with peaks rising almost to 1,500 meters above the ocean floor.

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pic. CSIRO

Latest research technology

The Focus research cruise was organized in cooperation with the new Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) satellite, jointly developed by NASA and the French space agency Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES). This enabled simultaneous fine-scale mapping of ocean objects from the satellite and from the ocean surface. While the ship measured the properties of water inside the current, the satellite will measure the height of the ocean surface with unprecedented resolution. The integration makes it possible to map fine oceanic features, a breakthrough in ways to observe and understand water dynamics. This synergy between satellite observations and ship-based measurements opens up new opportunities for ocean science, enabling more accurate predictions of climate change and its impact on global marine systems.

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pic. CSIRO

Underwater mountain range vs. ocean currents

According to Helen Phillips, co-director of the study, the findings on how seafloor relief affects the Antarctic Circumpolar Current are crucial to understanding ocean dynamics.

The Antarctic Circumpolar Current senses the seabed and mountains in its path, and where it encounters barriers such as ridges or seamounts, disturbances are created in the water flow , which form eddies. Valleys and cliffs can also accelerate deep currents on the ocean floor.

Vortices resemble weather systems and play a major role in transporting heat and carbon from the upper layers of the ocean to deeper regions – providing a critical buffer against global warming. Knowledge of the depth and shape of the seafloor is crucial for us to quantify the influence of undersea mountains, hills and valleys on the Antarctic Circumpolar Current and heat leakage toward Antarctica.

Discoveries about the Antarctic Circumpolar Current are very important for understanding ocean dynamics. This current, flowing clockwise from west to east around Antarctica, is not only the most powerful current on earth, but also the only one that connects all the oceans. Investigating its role becomes crucial in the context of climate change, as it consumes more than 90 percent of the The heat generated by global warming, and about 25 percent. carbon dioxide emissions. This process is an important mechanism for regulating weather, acting as a shock absorber for climate shocks.

Understanding the heat and greenhouse gas pathways in the oceans is essential to dealing with the challenges of climate change. Scientists are focusing on investigating the pathways through which heat is directed toward Antarctica, which could contribute to melting ice and rising sea levels. Understanding the processes and monitoring the changes are the basis for action to counter the effects of climate change.

The discovery of the underwater mountain range is not only a fascinating geological phenomenon, but also opens new perspectives for our understanding of ocean dynamics and its role in shaping climate.

Photo source: CISIRO, photo. Mark Horstman

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