Scientists unlock ocean CO2 secrets

2012-07-30 21:58
CO2 in the sea

CO2 in the sea

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Singapore - From giant whirlpools to currents 1 000km wide, scientists said on Monday they have uncovered how vast amounts of carbon are locked away in the depths of the Southern Ocean, boosting researchers ability to detect the impact of climate change.

Oceans curb the pace of climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels. The Southern Ocean is the largest of these ocean carbon sinks, soaking up about 40% of mankind's CO2 absorbed by the seas.

But until now, researchers were unsure what mechanisms were involved because of the remoteness and sheer size of the Southern Ocean.

"By identifying the mechanisms responsible for taking carbon out of the surface layer in the ocean, we're in a much better situation to talk about how climate change might impact that process," said oceanographer Richard Matear, one of the authors of the Southern Ocean study published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

The team of British and Australian scientists found that currents that take carbon from the surface to the depths occur at specific locations, not uniformly across the ocean as previously thought.

They found that a combination of winds, currents and whirlpools create conditions for carbon to be drawn down into the deep ocean to be locked away for decades to centuries. Some of the plunging currents were up to 1 000km wide.

In other areas, currents return carbon to the atmosphere as part of a natural cycle.

But overall, the Southern Ocean is large net carbon sink, the authors say, calculating the area between 35 and 65 degrees south takes up the equivalent of 1.5 billion tons of CO2 a year, or more than the annual greenhouse gas emissions of Japan.

Scientists worry that a warming planet could disrupt this natural pattern by changing wind patterns and ocean currents.

Matear said by figuring how the Southern Ocean worked and using a new monitoring network of robotic ocean-going devices researchers will get a much better handle on how the seas between Australia and Antarctica are changing.

"Climate change will definitely interact with this process and modulate it," Matear, of Australia's state-funded Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, told Reuters.

Read more on:    nature geoscience  |  us  |  maritime  |  climate change

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

linking and moving

2015-04-22 07:36

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.