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Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) Overview



  Jan 24, 2024

Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) Overview



The Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) is a significant feature in the Southern Ocean, playing a crucial role in Earth's climate and marine ecosystems. Here are key facts about the ACC:

Direction and Flow: The ACC flows clockwise from west to east around Antarctica, as viewed from the South Pole. This unique flow pattern is influenced by the Earth's rotation and wind patterns.

Alternative Name: It is also known as the West Wind Drift, reflecting its association with the westerly winds in the Southern Hemisphere.

Volume and Strength: The ACC is the largest ocean current, with a mean transport estimated between 100–150 Sverdrups (Sv), where 1 Sv equals one million cubic meters per second. Some estimates even suggest a higher volume, emphasizing its immense strength.

Circumpolar Nature: The ACC's circumpolar flow is uninterrupted, as there are no landmasses connecting Antarctica with other continents. This continuous flow plays a critical role in maintaining Antarctica's cold climate and preserving its massive ice sheet by keeping warmer ocean waters at bay.

Antarctic Convergence: Associated with the ACC is the Antarctic Convergence, an ecologically significant zone where the cold Antarctic waters meet the warmer subantarctic waters.

This convergence leads to upwelling of nutrients, fostering high levels of phytoplankton. These phytoplanktons serve as a base for complex food chains that support a variety of species including fish, whales, seals, penguins, albatrosses, and others.

Connectivity Among Oceans: The ACC connects the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans, serving as a major pathway for water, heat, salt, and nutrient exchange among these oceans. Understanding the Antarctic Circumpolar Current is essential for comprehending global oceanic circulation and its impact on climate and marine life.


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