Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Southern Ocean Carbon Sink in Trouble?

If you drove to work or school this morning or used electricity to power the computer on which you're looking at this image, chances are you released carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, people released about 7.8 billion tons (7.8 gigatons) of carbon into the atmosphere in 2005 by burning fossil fuels and making cement, and that number grows every year. What happens to all of the carbon dioxide that people release into the atmosphere? About half stays in the atmosphere, where it warms Earth, and the other half is absorbed by growing plants on land and by the ocean.

As people have put more and more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the ocean has responded by soaking up more carbon dioxide—a trend scientists expected to continue for many years. But in 2007, a team of scientists reported in the journal Science that between 1981 and 2004 carbon dioxide concentrations in the Southern Ocean didn’t change at all, even though global atmospheric levels continued to rise. More >>>