The sensitivity of the Southern Ocean overturning to altered surface buoyancy forcing is investigated in a series of eddy-permitting, idealised simulations. The modelled response indicates that heat and freshwater fluxes in the Southern Hemisphere mid-latitudes may play a significant role in setting the strength of the overturning circulation. Enhanced buoyancy fluxes act to increase the meridional overturning up to a limit approaching the wind-driven Ekman transport. The sensitivity of the overturning to surface buoyancy forcing is strongly dependent on the relative locations of the wind stress profile, buoyancy forcing and upwelling region. The numerical simulations provide support for the hypothesis that changes in upwelling during deglaciations may have been driven by changes in heat and freshwater fluxes, instead of, or in addition to, changes in wind stress.