How much deep water is formed in the Southern Ocean?


  • W. S. Broecker,

  • S. L. Peacock,

  • S. Walker,

  • R. Weiss,

  • E. Fahrbach,

  • M. Schroeder,

  • U. Mikolajewicz,

  • C. Heinze,

  • R. Key,

  • T.-H. Peng,

  • S. Rubin


Three tracers are used to place constraints on the production rate of ventilated deep water in the Southern Ocean. The distribution of the water mass tracer PO4* (“phosphate star”) in the deep sea suggests that the amount of ventilated deep water produced in the Southern Ocean is equal to or greater than the outflow of North Atlantic Deep Water from the Atlantic. Radiocarbon distributions yield an export flux of water from the North Atlantic which has averaged about 15 Sv over the last several hundred years. CFC inventories are used as a direct indicator of the current production rate of ventilated deep water in the Southern Ocean. Although coverage is as yet sparse, it appears that the CFC inventory is not inconsistent with the deep water production rate required by the distributions of PO4* and radiocarbon. It has been widely accepted that the major part of the deep water production in the Southern Ocean takes place in the Weddell Sea. However, our estimate of the Southern Ocean ventilated deep water flux is in conflict with previous estimates of the flux of ventilated deep water from the Weddell Sea, which lie in the range 1–5 Sv. Possible reasons for this difference are discussed.