The Environment

Antarctic currents that enrich 40% of Earth’s deep ocean with oxygen and nutrients that are vital for marine life have slowed dangerously in recent decades and could collapse by mid-century, a study published Thursday revealed.

The research—which was published in the journal Nature Climate Change—showed a 30% slowdown in deep water currents around Antarctica since the early 1990s.

Currents known as Antarctic bottom waters—which are driven by cold, dense waters off the Antarctic continental shelf—power a worldwide system of currents. The most important of these, known as the Southern Ocean overturning circulation, comprises two massive cells—one subducting downward and the other upwelling—that connect the various water basins in a global circulation system.

“If the oceans had lungs, this would be one of them.” Read on.