Southern Ocean in trouble

May 25, 2007 at 3:00 am Leave a comment

Photo from PortugalNot great news today I’m afraid: scientists now have evidence that the Southern Ocean is losing its appetite for carbon dioxide. The ocean’s ability to absorb carbon dioxide (major greenhouse gas) has weakened by 15% per decade since 1981. The Southern Ocean is a major carbon dioxide sink and if it is less efficient, then this will lead to higher levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Scientists have been studying this particular sink for four years and have concluded (now, here’s a surprise) that the finger of blame can be pointed at human activity.

Human-induced climate change has resulted in the wind strength across the ocean increasing. Fierce winds may be caused by the ozone hole over the South Pole and global warming. Apparently, increased wind strength can influence the processes of mixing and upwelling in the ocean and this all causes an increased release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. And the ocean simply can’t cope with absorbing it all. Up to now, the Southern Ocean has been able to absorb 15% of carbon emissions, which was a healthy appetite, but now she’s struggling.

The scientific team examined atmospheric carbon dioxide measurements taken from points around the world during the past 24 years and found that carbon dioxide emissions have increased by 40% in the past few decades. Scientists had expected to see a corresponding increase in the levels of carbon dioxide mopped up by the oceans surrounding Antarctica, but instead, found they just weren’t keeping pace. Of course, this means we now have greenhouse gases swirling around with nowhere to go.

Bummer…

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Entry filed under: Climate Change, Nature, Science.

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