Sustained observations in Drake Passage

The Southern Ocean is the conduit through which heat and freshwater, as well as biogeochemical properties, are transported between the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific ocean basins. It also plays an important role in the ventilation of ocean interiors, via the formation of water masses around Antarctica and their distribution in the meridional overturning circulation. It is thus an extremely important part of the global ocean-atmosphere-cryosphere system and is both highly sensitive to and strongly involved in climate forcing. For over 25 years, Drake Passage has been the most comprehensively observed part of the Southern Ocean. It provides the link between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, and it constricts the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) to a narrow geographical region, making this the best place to measure the ACC's properties. Since 1993, a sustained hydrographic measurement programme led by NERC scientists has made high-quality full-depth hydrographic measurements across Drake Passage each Antarctic summer. These continent-to-continent measurements are unique: no other ocean basin has such good resolution over such a time period.


Drake Passage is currently part of ORCHESTRA

Project Dates: 
November 1993 to March 2021

NERC – National Capability