New research appears to have yielded insight on the matter of carbon sequestration in the Southern Ocean according to the ABC. As reported on the ABC today, this research will add to the certainty on climate change. On the other hand the lead researcher on the project Jean-Baptiste Sallee, notes that as yet they have no idea what the impacts for climate change will be! But it is an alarming “story”!
ELEANOR HALL: Australian and British scientists have made a critical discovery that they say will improve the accuracy of climate predictions.
They’ve worked out how carbon is drawn down from the surface of the Southern Ocean to the depths, where it is stored.
The Southern Ocean is one of the world’s most important carbon sinks and there is doubt about whether it will remain as effective in the future.
And as the climate models improve, one prominent former climate sceptic has announced that he’s been won over by the data on global warming and is now a “converted sceptic”.
Simon Lauder has our report.
SIMON LAUDER: About a quarter of the world’s carbon dioxide is stored in its oceans – 40 per cent of that is stored in the waters which encircle Antarctica, the Southern Ocean.
Until now scientists have understood little about how CO2 goes from the atmosphere to the cold depths of the ocean. The CSIRO and the British Antarctic Survey used data from robotic probes to find out what makes the giant funnels and currents which suck water downwards.
CSIRO researcher, Dr Richard Matear, says it’s more complicated than previously thought.
RICHARD MATEAR: The key message that emerges from the study is these pathways by which the ocean takes up the anti-carbon actually happen in very well defined locations. There’s also places where some of this carbon that’s being sequestered by the ocean is actually moved with the ocean currents and actually then re-ventilated back into the surface layer of the ocean, which impacts the efficiency by which carbon is transferred from the surface layer into the ocean interior.
SIMON LAUDER: So what are the elements and factors at play?
RICHARD MATEAR: So it has a lot to do with the ocean circulation, so the key thing that emerges is there’s in each ocean basin – the Pacific, the Atlantic, Indian Ocean – we find these well defined regions where this carbon is being transferred in the ocean interior and that seems to agree with our observations of where carbon is accumulating in the ocean.
SIMON LAUDER: Is it likely that climate change itself will change those pathways?
RICHARD MATEAR: Oh definitely. So climate change will impact the winds, climate change will probably impact the way the eddies are generated, and climate change will impact the way the upper oceans circulation interacts with its own structure.
So for example with climate change we’re anticipating that as we warm and melt some of the sea ice we actually freshen the upper ocean and that’ll have an impact on the structure of the upper ocean.
SIMON LAUDER: Does that mean that in the future, because of climate change, the Southern Ocean may suck in less carbon than it currently does?
RICHARD MATEAR: Well that is one concern. So the oceans, as I started with, play an important role in taking up this carbon and the expectation is as we warm and stratify the upper ocean, we’d expect that its ability to take up carbon dioxide will decline.
SIMON LAUDER: The findings, which are published in the journal Nature Geoscience, will help strengthen the models which predict the effects of global warming.
Meanwhile, the lead author on the project, Jean-Baptiste Sallee commenting on the same project states: “This does seem to be good news, but the thing is what will be the impact of climate change on the eddies? Will they stop, will they intensify? We have no idea,” said Mr Sallee.
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New findings add to certainty on climate change
Simon Lauder reported this story on Monday, July 30, 2012 12:22:00