Thursday, May 17, 2007

Another climate change symptom

The Southern Ocean, the ocean around Antarctica, is saturated in carbon dioxide and can barely absorb any more. This is bad news because the Southern Ocean has been the world's biggest carbon sink. The ocean sucks (or sucked) carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, helping to reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. Experts expected to see the ocean saturated in carbon, but not until 2050. Now they have proof that it's been saturated from 1981 through 2004.

Part of the culprit, other than the fact that there's too much carbon in the atmosphere, has been wind. An increase in the wind around Antarctica has resulted in carbon lower in the water being pulled to the surface. This makes it harder for the water to absorb carbon at the surface boundary. More carbon dioxide means higher temperatures. Since most of the land — and, thus, most of us carbon generating humans — are in the north, the world's temperature has risen more in the northern hemisphere than the southern (though it has also risen in the south). This temperature difference has increased wind velocity in the south, which in turn has exasperated the carbon sink problem.

"Since the beginning of the industrial revolution the world's oceans have absorbed about a quarter of the 500 gigatons of carbon emitted into the atmosphere by humans," Chris Rapley of the British Antarctic Survey said in a statement.

"The possibility that in a warmer world the Southern Ocean -- the strongest ocean sink -- is weakening is a cause for concern," Rapley said.

The full article is here:

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