In the early 1980s, Germany started a new era of modern Antarctic research. The Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) was founded and important research platforms such as the German permanent station in Antarctica, today called Neumayer III, and the research icebreaker Polarstern were installed. The research primarily focused on the Atlantic sector of the Southern Ocean. In parallel, the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG) started a priority program ‘Antarctic Research’ (since 2003 called SPP-1158) to foster and intensify the cooperation between scientists from different German universities and the AWI as well as other institutes involved in polar research. Here, we review the main findings in meteorology and oceanography of the last decade, funded by the priority program. The paper presents field observations and modelling efforts, extending from the stratosphere to the deep ocean. The research spans a large range of temporal and spatial scales, including the interaction of both climate components. In particular, radiative processes, the interaction of the changing ozone layer with large-scale atmospheric circulations, and changes in the sea ice cover are discussed. Climate and weather forecast models provide an insight into the water cycle and the climate change signals associated with synoptic cyclones. Investigations of the atmospheric boundary layer focus on the interaction between atmosphere, sea ice and ocean in the vicinity of polynyas and leads. The chapters dedicated to polar oceanography review the interaction between the ocean and ice shelves with regard to the freshwater input and discuss the changes in water mass characteristics, ventilation and formation rates, crucial for the deepest limb of the global, climate-relevant meridional overturning circulation. They also highlight the associated storage of anthropogenic carbon as well as the cycling of carbon, nutrients and trace metals in the ocean with special emphasis on the Weddell Sea.