North Atlantic not doing so well

cargo by runner310

Study measures ocean’s CO2 uptake
[Via BBC News | Science/Nature | World Edition]

There are substantial variations in the amount of carbon being absorbed by the North Atlantic Ocean, a study shows.


You bet substantial variations. The BBC leaves out a few critical points. Luckily we can check out the original paper, if we have a subscription. It is entitled Tracking the Variable North Atlantic Sink for Atmospheric CO2

One thing is that we had better hope that the rest of the world’s oceans are making up for the drop in carbon dioxide uptake by the North Atlantic. Because the flux in the North Atlantic appears to have been dropping from estimated values in 1995. In 2005 it was about 25% less than in 1995.

And in none of the years from 2002 to 2007 did it get above the 1995 value. Only 2005 even came close. So the other years may have seen a drop much greater than 25% from 1995 levels.

If the oceans are soaking up less carbon dioxide, then either the lands of the world must take up more or thethere will be an increase in the increasing amounts of carbon dioxide appearing in the atmosphere as time goes on.

They are now working at getting more monitoring in other oceans. I’m hoping that the other oceans are picking up the slack because the North Atlantic seems to be doing a poorer job soaking up carbon dioxide than it might have 10 years ago.

2 thoughts on “North Atlantic not doing so well

  1. Atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide are defintely increasing. During the 1400’s and early 1500’s before the industrial revolution, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels were in the 200 to 210 ppm range. The levels now are in the 380 to 385 ppm range and increasing approximately 1.5 to 2.0 ppm per year. The oceans of the world should be absorbing more carbon dioxide in order to keep things in equilibrium–assuming the ocean temperatures and atmospheric pressure don’t change. There is only one problem-average ocean temperatures have been slowly increasing for the last 30 or so years and especially since 1995. This temperature increase is more than offsetting the higher atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations. The warmer the oceans get, the less carbon dioxide they can absorb assuming the overall atmospheric pressure doesn’t increase. Even an increase of just one degree F in the average water temperature over an area the size of an ocean can have a huge effect in the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed. Whether by natural variations in world temperatures or from increased greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, things are going to continue warming-up for the foreseeable future, meaning that the average overall carbon dioxide absorption by the oceans is going to continue to drop. Some ocean areas may be worse than others depending on local temperature variations.

    1. I completely agree. This paper has some very good data on exactly how much carbon dioxide flux is occurring in the North Atlantic. And we should get a better idea of how carbon fluxes change at different latitudes, which will alter as the oceans all become warmer, possible disrupting the heat transfer currents from the Equator to the Poles.

      But, for me, the real worry is not just the warming oceans and decreasing CO2 flux.

      I worry about the acidification of the oceans and the apparent inability of carbonate-using organisms, such as some plankton, to create the hard shells they need to survive. If the plankton populations crash, so will the ocean ecosystems. Not much effect either cap & trade or geo-engineering would have there.

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