PerspectiveOcean Science

When Still Waters Ran Deep

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Science  16 Jul 2010:
Vol. 329, Issue 5989, pp. 290-291
DOI: 10.1126/science.1192295

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“Deep water” and “bottom water”—the waters that fill the deep parts of ocean basins—form when surface waters become dense and sink. Today, this occurs in the northern North Atlantic and around Antarctica, but not in the North Pacific. There, surface waters do not become dense enough to sink more than a few hundred meters. In the past, however, it seems things were different. Recently, Okazaki et al. offered new insight into the ancient history of the ocean from radiocarbon data and modeling analyses (1). They suggest that deep water formed in the North Pacific at the beginning of the transition out of the last ice age.