Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Ice-free ocean may not absorb CO2, a component in global warming

03.08.2010
The summer of 2010 has been agonizingly hot in much of the continental U.S., and the record-setting temperatures have refocused attention on global warming. Scientists have been looking at ways the Earth might benefit from natural processes to balance the rising heat, and one process had intrigued them, a premise that melting ice at the poles might allow more open water that could absorb carbon dioxide, one of the major compounds implicating in warming.

Now, though, in research just published in the journal Science and led by a University of Georgia biogeochemist, that idea may be one more dead end. In fact, a survey of waters in the Canada Basin, which extends north of Alaska to the North Pole, shows that its value as a potential carbon dioxide “sink” may be short-lived at best and minor in terms of what the planet will need to avoid future problems.

“The Canada Basin and entire Arctic Ocean are still taking up carbon dioxide,” said Wei-Jun Cai, a professor in the department of marine biology in UGA’s Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and lead author of the study. “But our research shows that as the ice melts, the carbon dioxide in the water very quickly reaches equilibrium with the atmosphere, so its use as a place to store CO2 declines dramatically and quickly. We never really understood how limited these waters would be in terms of their usefulness in soaking up carbon dioxide.”

The research was a joint project with the government of China. Other authors on the paper published in Science include, from the University of Georgia: graduate student Baoshan Chen, research scientist Yongchen Wang, postdoctoral associate Xinping Hu, and doctoral student Wei-Jen Huang. Colleagues from China and elsewhere who were co-authors include Liqi Chen, Zhongyong Gao, Yuanhui Zhang and Suqing Xu from the Third Institute of Oceanography of the State Ocean Administration of China; Sang Lee of the Korea Polar Institute;Jianfang Chen and Haisheng Zhang of the Second Institute of Oceanography in China; Denis Pierrot and Kevin Sullivan of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Akihiko Murata of the Research Institute for Global Change in Japan; Jackie Grabmeier of the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, University of Maryland; and Peter Jones of the Bedford Institute of Oceanography in Canada.

The carbon dioxide level in the Earth’s atmosphere has increased dramatically since the industrial revolution, and around 30 percent of that CO2 has been absorbedby the oceans. That has been the good news. The bad news is that it increases the acidification of the seas, causing changes in conditions for the growth of all life forms.

Melting in the planet’s Arctic zone has been dramatic in the past three years. A recent paper predicted that the Arctic Ocean would be ice-free during summer within 30 years, Cai noted. Researchers in years past had predicted that increased areas of open water in the Arctic, while troublesome in many ways, might at least sequester increasing amounts of carbon dioxide because of summertime ice melts.

“This prediction, however, was made based on observations of very low surface water carbon dioxide levels,” said Cai, “from either highly productive ocean margin areas or basin areas under earlier ice-covered conditions before the recent major ice retreat.”

To see just how efficient Canada Basin waters would be in taking up atmospheric carbon dioxide, an international team of scientists in the summer of 2008 boarded the retrofitted Chinese research vessel Xue Long (Snow Dragon) for a three-month research voyage. Using direct sampling of water and another method called “underway” sampling, in which water is pumped into the ship directly from the ocean, analyzed and returned, they studied the upper layers of the water into which they sailed. They also studied the waters’ salinity, temperature, nutrient concentration and chlorophyll activity.

What Cai and colleagues found was that as greater areas of ice melt each summer, the Canada Basin’s potential as a CO2 sink will diminishdramatically mainly because of the rapid uptake of CO2 from the atmosphere. And because of this carbon dioxide uptake, the waters become quite acidic and “a poor environment for calcium-carbonate shell-bearing marine organisms,” Cai said.

The findings are at once intriguing and disappointing because carbon dioxide and other gases dissolve more readily in cold water than warm water, and so scientists had long thought that seas of melting polar ice would at least have the trade-off of being good places for the absorption of carbon dioxide.

Collaborative work of this kind between the governments of the United States and China on Arctic research is relatively new. Cai said it greatly benefits both parties.

“One of the take-away lessons of this research is that we can’t expect the oceans to do the job of helping offset global warming in the short term,” said Cai.

Cai’s work is supported by the National Science Foundation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Philip Lee Williams | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.uga.edu

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Global study of world's beaches shows threat to protected areas
19.07.2018 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht NSF-supported researchers to present new results on hurricanes and other extreme events
19.07.2018 | National Science Foundation

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Future electronic components to be printed like newspapers

A new manufacturing technique uses a process similar to newspaper printing to form smoother and more flexible metals for making ultrafast electronic devices.

The low-cost process, developed by Purdue University researchers, combines tools already used in industry for manufacturing metals on a large scale, but uses...

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

A smart safe rechargeable zinc ion battery based on sol-gel transition electrolytes

20.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Reversing cause and effect is no trouble for quantum computers

20.07.2018 | Information Technology

Princeton-UPenn research team finds physics treasure hidden in a wallpaper pattern

20.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>