Jeffrey Park, professor of geology and geophysics and director of the Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies, used data collected from atmospheric observing stations in Hawaii, Alaska and Antarctica to study the relationship between fluctuations in global temperatures and the global abundance of atmospheric CO2 on interannual (one to 10 years) time scales.
A similar study from 20 years ago found a five-month lag between interannual temperature changes and the resulting changes in CO2 levels. Park has now found that this lag has increased from five to at least 15 months.
“No one had updated the analysis from 20 years ago,” Park said. “I expected to find some change in the lag time, but the shift was surprisingly large. This is a big change.”
With a longer lag time, atmospheric CO2 can no longer adjust fully to cyclical temperature fluctuations before the next cycle begins, suggesting that the oceans have lost some of their ability to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere. Weaker CO2 absorption could be caused by a change in ocean circulation or just an overall increase in the surface temperature. “Think of the oceans like soda,” Park said. “Warm cola holds less fizz,” Park said. “The same thing happens as the oceans warm up.”
Increases in CO2 levels have tended to precede increases in temperature over the past century, with the human influence on climate accumulating over many decades of burning fossil fuels and clearing forests. However, this relationship is reversed on interannual time scales, with multiyear temperature cycles leading multiyear cycles in CO2 levels.
Park found particularly strong correlations between sea-surface temperatures and CO2 levels in tropical ocean areas. Conversely, in places with a lot of trees and other biomass to soak up much of the atmospheric CO2, there was little or no correlation between temperature and CO2 on interannual time scales. In those places, such as the vast forests of North America and Eurasia, a large annual CO2 cycle synchronizes with the seasonal growth and decay of plants.
“Researchers have used climate models that suggest the oceans have been absorbing less CO2, but this is the first study to quantify the change directly using observations,” Park said. “It strengthens the projection that the oceans will not absorb as much of our future CO2 emissions, and that the pace of future climate change will quicken.”
Suzanne Taylor Muzzin | EurekAlert!
NASA's AIM observes early noctilucent ice clouds over Antarctica
05.12.2016 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
GPM sees deadly tornadic storms moving through US Southeast
01.12.2016 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
05.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering
05.12.2016 | Materials Sciences
05.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering