“The ocean is taking up less carbon because of the warming caused by the carbon in the atmosphere,” says [Galen] McKinley, an assistant professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences and a member of the Center for Climatic Research….
McKinley is the lead author of a new analysis in the journal Nature Geoscience (subs. req’d) that appears to resolve a major issue in climate science: “How deep is the ocean’s capacity to buffer against climate change?”
We now know that as the ocean warms up, its ability to act as a carbon “sink” is diminishing. We are seeing a dangerous, amplifying carbon-cycle feedback.
The study’s news release explains:
As one of the planet’s largest single carbon absorbers, the ocean takes up roughly one-third of all human carbon emissions, reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide and its associated global changes.
But “whether the ocean can continue mopping up human-produced carbon at the same rate” wasn’t entirely clear. “Previous studies on the topic have yielded conflicting results.”
Back in 2007, I reported that the long-feared saturation of one the world’s primary carbon sinks had apparently started. Again in 2009, I discussed a study in Geophysical Research Letters (subs. req’d), “Sudden, considerable reduction in recent uptake of anthropogenic CO2 by the East/Japan Sea.” Most, but not all, studies have suggested the ocean was either losing its ability to absorb CO2 or soon would (see list here).
This new study, however, is different and more comprehensive than previous ones: