Carbon Sinks?

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Research released this week has indicated new findings on the impacts of global warming. European scientists from the University of East Anglia (UEA), British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and the Max-Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry have discovered that the levels of carbon dioxide absorbed by the Southern Ocean are dwindling, despite having remained constant since the 1980s. The four year study concluded that the change is attributed to higher winds around the Southern Ocean, themselves believed to be caused by the man-made hole in the ozone layer, and the increased levels of carbon emissions made by humans.

Experts had previously anticipated a decline in absorption of carbon emissions by oceans, but they hadn’t expected it to happen until considerably further into the century. That the Southern Ocean has shown signs of decreasing absorption is of great concern given that it is the largest marine “carbon sink.” It accounts for fifteen per cent of all carbon taken out of the atmosphere, with oceans having removed a quarter of all carbon emissions since the Industrial Revolution.

It is calculated that a fall in the Southern Ocean’s absorption rate of between five and thirty per cent in the next fifty years will result in a corresponding rate of temperature increase, causing concerns that it will not be possible to keep temperature rises within previously hoped-for limits.

Lead author Dr Corinne Le Quéré of UEA and BAS said,

“This is the first time that we’ve been able to say that climate change itself is responsible for the saturation of the Southern Ocean sink. This is serious. All climate models predict that this kind of ‘feedback’ will continue and intensify during this century.”

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