3 February 2016

Study shows North Atlantic Ocean carbon storage doubled over last decade

Posted by llipuma

Submitted by the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science Communications Office

A new study shows that the North Atlantic Ocean absorbed 100 percent more man-made carbon dioxide over the last decade, compared to the previous decade. The findings show the impact that the burning of fossil fuels have had on the world’s oceans in just 10 years.

A new study shows that the North Atlantic Ocean absorbed 50 percent more man-made carbon dioxide over the last decade, compared to the previous decade. Credit: NOAA.

A new study shows that the North Atlantic Ocean absorbed twice as much man-made carbon dioxide from 2003-2014 as it did from 1989-2003. 
Photo credit: NOAA.

To determine the total uptake and storage of carbon dioxide in the North Atlantic over the last several decades, researchers analyzed data collected from the same locations, but 10 years apart, to identify changes caused by man-made carbon dioxide. The data were collected during two ship-based studies, CLIVAR (Climate Variability Carbon Dioxide Repeat Hydrography) and GO-SHIP (Global Ocean Ship-Based Hydrographic Investigations Program).

“This study shows the large impact all of us are having on the environment and that our use of fossil fuels isn’t only causing the climate to change, but also affects the oceans by decreasing the pH,” said Ryan Woosley, a researcher at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS).

The oceans help to slow the growth of human-produced carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by absorbing and storing about a quarter of the total carbon dioxide emissions. The North Atlantic is an area of high uptake and storage due to large-scale ocean circulations.

The uptake of carbon dioxide has many impacts on ocean-dwelling organisms by decreasing the pH. The findings have important implications for marine organisms, such as corals and mollusks, which require a certain pH level in the surrounding water to build their calcium carbonate-based shells and exoskeletons.

The researchers hope to return in another 10 years to determine if the increase in carbon uptake continues, or if, as many fear, it will decrease as a result of slowing thermohaline circulation.

The study was published in the journal Global Biogeochemical Cycles, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

This post originally appeared as a press release on the RSMAS website.