Oceans Waning As Effective Carbon Sink

A new study finds that the world's oceans are becoming less efficient at absorbing carbon, likely due to emissionsbuildup over the last 30 years.

"The more carbon dioxide the ocean absorbs, the more acidic it becomes and the less carbon dioxide it can absorb," said lead author Samar Khatiwala, a research scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University and a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology. "Because of this chemical effect, over time, the ocean is expected to become a less efficient sink of manmade carbon. The surprise is that we may already be seeing evidence for this, perhaps compounded by the oceans' slow circulation in the face of accelerating emissions."
The study, published in the November 19 issue of Nature, finds that the ocean, which was able to keep up with climbing emissions beginning in the 1950s, has tailed off as a reliable carbon-absorber since the 1980s – especially since 2000.

Published: December 2, 2009