The abyssal ocean is filled with cold, dense waters that sink along the Antarctic continental slope and overflow sills that lie south of the Nordic Seas. Recent integrations of chlorofluorocarbon-11 (CFC) measurements are similar in Antarctic Bottom Water (AABW) and in lower North Atlantic Deep Water (NADW), but Antarctic inputs are ≈ 2°C colder than their northern counterparts. This indicates comparable ventilation rates from both polar regions, and accounts for the Southern Ocean dominance over abyssal cooling. The decadal CFC-based estimates of recent ventilation are consistent with other hydrographic observations and with longer-term radiocarbon data, but not with hypotheses of a 20th-century slowdown in the rate of AABW formation. Significant variability is not precluded by the available ocean measurements, however, and interannual to decadal changes are increasingly evident at high latitudes.