South Polar Sea removing large quantities of CO2 from the atmosphere
By Dr. Sebastian Lüning and Fritz Vahrenholt
(German text translated/edited by P Gosselin)
About half of the CO2 emitted by man gets absorbed by the oceans and so does not stay in the atmosphere. Here there are certain areas of the ocean that are especially efficient CO2 sinks, while others do not absorb so well. What follows is a look of the newest literature on the subject.
On September 15, 2015 the German daily Tagesspiegel presented some good news on climate change, reporting that the ocean was “a counter player against the greenhouse effect” and that the South Polar Sea was “putting the brakes on climate change“. It wrote:
Since 2002 the South Polar Sea has been taking in more carbon dioxide after it worked more slowly in the 1980s. […] The world oceans swallowed larger amounts of greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the air, a quarter of man’s climate gas output disappears in its depths.”
Read (German) at the Tagesspiegel.
The Austrian daily Der Standard also reported on the study, describing the same process.
German daily Die Welt explained how it worked on 21 September 2015, as it reported on a paper in ‘Current Biology’, explaining that tiny animals consume away the CO2 in large amounts.
Since the 1980s the growth of the tiny moss animals (Bryozoa) in the region have almost doubled, reported David Barnes of the British Antarctic Survey in ‘Current Biology’.”
September 2015 saw a really large advance on the subject. On 18 September 2015 a paper by David Munro at al appeared in the Geophysical Research Letters confirming the welcome news of the trend of stronger CO2 intake by the Antarctic sea area. Also the Drake Passage is absorbing more CO2 than before:
Recent evidence for a strengthening CO2 sink in the Southern Ocean from carbonate system measurements in the Drake Passage (2002–2015)
We present a 13 year (2002–2015) semimonthly time series of the partial pressure of CO2 in surface water (pCO2surf) and other carbonate system parameters from the Drake Passage. This record shows a clear increase in the magnitude of the sea-air pCO2 gradient, indicating strengthening of the CO2 sink in agreement with recent large-scale analyses of the world oceans. The rate of increase in pCO2surf north of the Antarctic Polar Front (APF) is similar to the atmospheric pCO2 (pCO2atm) trend, whereas the pCO2surf increase south of the APF is slower than the pCO2atm trend. The high-frequency surface observations indicate that an absence of a winter increase in total CO2 (TCO2) and cooling summer sea surface temperatures are largely responsible for increasing CO2 uptake south of the APF. Muted winter trends in surface TCO2 also provide temporary stability to the carbonate system that is already close to undersaturation with respect to aragonite.”
What follows is the press release by the American Geophysical Union (AGU) on the article:
Southern Ocean removing carbon dioxide from atmosphere more efficiently
Scientists compile densest carbon data set in Antarctic waters
Since 2002, the Southern Ocean has been removing more of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, according to two new studies.
These studies make use of millions of ship-based observations and a variety of data analysis techniques to conclude that that the Southern Ocean has increasingly taken up more carbon dioxide during the last 13 years. That follows a decade from the early 1990s to 2000s, where evidence suggested the Southern Ocean carbon dioxide sink was weakening. The new studies appear today in the American Geophysical Union journal Geophysical Research Letters and the AAAS journal Science.
The global oceans are an important sink for human-released carbon dioxide, absorbing nearly a quarter of the total carbon dioxide emissions every year. Of all ocean regions, the Southern Ocean below the 35th parallel south plays a particularly vital role. “Although it comprises only 26 percent of the total ocean area, the Southern Ocean has absorbed nearly 40 percent of all anthropogenic carbon dioxide taken up by the global oceans up to the present,” says David Munro, a scientist at the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR) at the University of Colorado Boulder, and an author on the GRL paper.
The GRL paper focuses on one region of the Southern Ocean extending from the tip of South America to the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula (see Figure 1). “The Drake Passage is the windiest, roughest part of the Southern Ocean,” says Colm Sweeney, lead investigator on the Drake Passage study, co-author on both the GRL and Science papers, and a CIRES scientist working in the NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado. “The critical element to this study is that we were able to sustain measurements in this harsh environment as long as we have—both in the summer and the winter, in every year over the last 13 years. This data set of ocean carbon measurements is the densest ongoing time series in the Southern Ocean.”
The team was able to take these long-term measurements by piggybacking instruments on the Antarctic Research Supply Vessel Laurence M. Gould. The National Science Foundation-supported Gould, which makes nearly 20 crossings of the Drake Passage each year, transporting people and supplies to and from Antarctic research stations. For over 13 years, it’s taken chemical measurements of the atmosphere and surface ocean along the way.
By analyzing more than one million surface ocean observations, the researchers could tease out subtle differences between the carbon dioxide trends in the surface ocean and the atmosphere that suggest a strengthening of the carbon sink. This change is most pronounced in the southern half of the Drake Passage during winter (see Figure 2). Although the researchers aren’t sure of the exact mechanism driving these changes, “it’s likely that winter mixing with deep waters that have not had contact with the atmosphere for several hundred years plays an important role,” says Munro.
The Science paper, led by Peter Landschützer at the ETH Zurich, takes a more expansive view of the Southern Ocean. This study uses two innovative methods to analyze a dataset of surface water carbon dioxide spanning almost three decades and covering all of the waters below the 35th parallel south. These data—including Sweeney and Munro’s data from the Drake Passage—also show that the surface water carbon dioxide is increasing slower than atmospheric carbon dioxide, a sign that the Southern Ocean as a whole is more efficiently removing carbon from the atmosphere. These results follow previous findings that showed that the Southern Ocean carbon dioxide sink was stagnant or weakening from the early 1990s to the early 2000s.
In addition to the Drake Passage measurements, the Science paper uses datasets that represent a significant international collaboration, including carbon dioxide sampling from NOAA’s Ship of Opportunity Program. This program, led by Rik Wanninkhof of NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML) who is also a coauthor of the Science paper, is the world’s largest coordinated ocean carbon dioxide sampling operation. Despite all these efforts, the Southern Ocean remains undersampled. “Given the importance of the Southern Ocean to the global oceans’ role in absorbing atmospheric carbon dioxide, these studies suggest that we must continue to expand our measurements in this part of the world despite the challenging environment,” says Sweeney.”
The temperature in the south polar region has a strong impact on the CO2 absorption capability of the South Polar Sea. Here the University of New South Wales mentioned this on 28 September 2015, citing the Nature Geoscience paper:
How ocean circulation changed atmospheric CO2
Scientists have struggled for the past few decades to understand why air temperatures around Antarctica over the past one million years were almost perfectly in synch with atmospheric CO2 concentrations. Both dipped down during glacial ice ages and back up again during warm interglacials. By contrast, temperature in the tropics and Northern Hemisphere was less closely tied to atmospheric CO2 concentrations. “This relationship between Antarctica temperature and CO2 suggested that somehow the Southern Ocean was pivotal in controlling natural atmospheric CO2 concentrations,” said Dr Maxim Nikurashin from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science. “The key that unlocked the mystery was the colder atmosphere and extensive sea ice around Antarctica during the glacial period. Together they fundamentally changed top to bottom ocean circulation and enabled more CO2 to be drawn from the atmosphere.”
The researchers found in a paper published today in Nature Geoscience that during glacial periods when the atmosphere was colder and sea ice was far more extensive, deep ocean waters came to the surface much further north of the Antarctic continent than they do today. This meant that the nutrients brought up from the bottom of the ocean spent more time on the surface of the ocean as the currents moved them southwards before the flow encountered Antarctica and circled back down to the bottom of the ocean. Because the upwelled waters ran along the surface for a longer period of time, nutrients spent more time near the surface of the ocean where phytoplankton could feed on them for longer.
The biological processes that result from phytoplankton blooms directly take carbon out of the atmosphere. Some of this carbon then sinks to the bottom of the ocean when the phytoplankton die, locking it away in the deep sea for thousands of years. “The biological processes that take up carbon from the atmosphere even take place in and under the ice, if that ice is not too thick, which is why the biological processes persisted for a lot longer during cooler periods,” the authors said. “Our results suggest that this change in circulation and the consequent extended biological activity by itself took 30-60ppm of CO2 out of the atmosphere. That’s about one half of the glacial-interglacial change.”
However, when temperatures warm over the Antarctic regions, deep waters rise from the floor of the ocean much closer to the continent. This means nutrients are near the surface for a shorter time before returning to the deep ocean floor. With less time on the surface there is less time for the biological processes to take place and less carbon is taken out of the atmosphere. This is the situation we see today. “This finding is a major advance in understanding the natural carbon cycle, gained by applying a new understanding about how the “overturning circulation” of the Southern Ocean works,” said lead author Dr Andrew J Watson from the University of Exeter.
Paper: Southern Ocean buoyancy forcing of ocean ventilation and glacial atmospheric CO2. Nature Geoscience. doi:10.1038/ngeo2538.”
30 responses to “New Studies Show Oceans Absorbing Atmospheric CO2 …”Putting Brakes On Climate Change””
“Since 2002, the Southern Ocean has been removing more of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, …”
I’ll fix this for them:
Since 2002, the Southern Ocean has been removing more plant food from the atmosphere, …
Without the AGW bias, such interesting studies as this would be sufficiently agreeable so as to read them for their scientific content. When the CAGW scam dies many good articles will seem as relevant as the old desk “candlestick” telephone.
Yes, it’s stunning that when there is more food for the Bryozoa their numbers grow and they eat more. Such an effect must be unheard of in nature. I wish I could locate my high school biology teacher and run it by her.
And I wish I could locate my high school chemistry teacher and run this discovery by him:
We could get a Nobel Prize in chemistry for a revolutionary reclassification of the pH scale. **)
*) Grundsätzlich gefährdet CO2 viele Meeresbewohner: Steigt in der Atmosphäre der Kohlendioxidgehalt, nimmt die Konzentration des Gases auch in den oberflächennahen Wasserschichten zu. Das lässt das Meerwasser saurer werden. Dies bedroht Meereslebewesen wie Korallen oder Muscheln und Schnecken, weil das saure Milieu die Bildung von Kalkschalen und Skeletten beeinträchtigt.
How much more BIZARRELY NON-SCIENTIFIC can these nil-educated fool become?
That even leaves the anti-science of the local AGW troll in its wake.
With the oceans starting to cool, it is an ABSOLUTE NECESSITY that the world continues to release carbon deposits from coal and oil into the carbon cycle.
ALL LIFE on the planet depends on this.
Those scientifically illiterate FOOLS trying to reduce CO2 output must be stopped before they cause irreparable damage.
This CO2-HATRED we see around the world is the absolute peak of IGNORANT SUPERSTITION.
This must be hard to read for Kenneth. The ocean being a sink, half of human CO2 stays in the atmosphere. Partial pressure and the law of mass action. So many things he tries to ignore in order to be able to say nature is not a net sink and humans aren’t responsible for the CO2 concentration increase 😉
P.S.: What is this paper/article trying to say? More CO2 in the air results in more CO2 being absorbed by the oceans and there is a temperature dependent component in that process … that’s already known. What’s new?
I wish you would stop making up stuff and falsely claiming I wrote it.
I have not written that “humans aren’t responsible for the CO2 concentration increase”. Humans likely contribute to CO2 emissions increases to some degree. How much we contribute is difficult to assess due to the immensity of the natural variability relative to our tiny emissions changes from year to year. For example, we haven’t increased our CO2 emissions for 4 years now. And yet CO2 concentrations have risen by 9 ppm during these years, largely because warm-water years (El Ninos) allow oceans to release more of their vast stores of CO2 relative to cold-water years (La Ninas, volcanic eruption years).
Please stop behaving dishonestly, SebastianH.
And there it is again, the misconception that only rising CO2 emissions could cause CO2 concentration increase. You should really try to learn something about the basic mechanisms before you base your arguments on such nonsense.
Whenever you have the chance you write that humans only contribute around 4% to the CO2 concentration increase and everything else would be natural. You do this while (hopefully) knowing what the airborne fraction represents. And that’s just weird … and dishonest.
Shockingly, I didn’t write that either. You’ve just dishonestly made up another comment and attributed it to me. I never wrote that “only rising CO2 emissions could cause CO2 concentration increase.” Instead of fabricating statements and then calling those fabrications “misconceptions”, why not actually be honest and reply to my actual comments?
That isn’t my argument. It’s an “argument” you made up and attempted to attribute to me.
No, you’ve got that wrong again.
I do not write that “humans only contribute around 4% to the CO2 concentration increase”. The 4% is the percentage of yearly emission relative to the natural emission according to the IPCC. Using AR5 data, nature out-emits humans by a ratio of 95.7% to 4.3%. The emissions ratio is different than the attribution for the year-to-year concentration increase. Obviously you either (a) don’t understand the difference or (b) do understand, but decided to try to fabricate another statement. I’m guessing the latter, since you can’t even make it through 2 sentences without making up another false statement.
Again, CO2 emissions have not risen for 4 straight years. And yet CO2 concentrations have risen by 9 ppm. This would appear to suggest that other factors besides the anthropogenic emission contribute to the CO2 concentration increase. These are my words. This is what I have written.
Your fabrications are both annoying and indicative of your desperation.
“And there it is again, the misconception that only rising CO2 emissions could cause CO2 concentration increase. ”
Why are you constantly making up BS that other haven’t said.
Is it base-level attention seeking/trolling/LYING??
The only person with zero comprehension of the dynamics of CO2 is YOU seb-t. !
You really need to go and learn something that is actually REAL, as opposed to the manic fabrications your klimate-kool-aide soaked mind keeps coming up with.
I am glad that you think that humans are contributing a large proportion of the rise of atmospheric CO2, because that means, what with 1600 new coal power stations being built around the world, there is going to be a continued increase in atmospheric CO2 for many decades to come.
And there is absolutely NOTHING that your pathetic yapping can do about it. 🙂
You are saying CO2 concentration increased despite CO2 emissions being constant and therefore the increase is caused by other factors.
That implies that you expect CO2 emissions would need to have increased in order to be responsible for the CO2 concentration increase, doesn’t it?
And that’s a misconception.
I am saying that other factors (i.e., warmer waters during El Nino years emit more CO2 than they do during La Nina years) contribute to CO2 concentration increases besides just human emissions. I didn’t exclude the possibility that humans contribute, and therefore writing that I have written “the increase is caused by other factors” does not reflect where I stand. Again, use my word choices; don’t make up your own.
I know you think that flat human emissions for 4 straight years while CO2 concentrations rise by 9 ppm actually supports your views, but that’s because you have presupposed that 100% of the concentration changes are caused by human emissions, and therefore any and every non-correlation (like this) should be discarded as irrelevant. As should papers like this…
A key relationship in the theory of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is that between annual fossil fuel emissions and annual changes in atmospheric CO2. The proposed causation sequence is that annual fossil fuel emissions cause annual changes in atmospheric CO2 which in turn intensifies the atmosphere’s heat trapping property. … A testable implication of the proposed causation sequence is that annual changes in atmospheric CO2 must be related to annual fossil fuel emissions at an annual time scale. No evidence is found that changes in atmospheric CO2 are related to fossil fuel emissions at an annual time scale.
Of course, because Dr. Munshi disagrees with you that there is a problem with the year-to-year non-correlation between human emissions and CO2 concentrations, your likely response is to call him a “denier”. Right?
It’s not a non-correlation. Please educate yourself about the mechanisms involved. See you when you found out how constant CO2 emissions are causing the CO2 concentration to increase. Even (slightly) decreasing emissions would still cause a concentration increase. Is that too hard to understand? Where do you have problems? Is it because it’s not a simple correlation, but uses more complicated math?
Yes, and since both increasing emissions and decreasing emissions both are the 100% cause of net CO2 concentration changes, you can rest assured that your presuppositions are unfalsifiable. No matter what happens, you will still claim that humans cause 100% of CO2 concentration changes. Decreasing emissions are 100% cause. Increasing emissions are 100% cause. It’s an unfalsifiable hypothesis…
Description: Confidently asserting that a theory or hypothesis is true or false even though the theory or hypothesis cannot possibly be contradicted by an observation or the outcome of any physical experiment, usually without strong evidence or good reasons.
Making unfalsifiable claims is a way to leave the realm of rational discourse, since unfalsifiable claims are often faith-based, and not founded on evidence and reason.
I have tiny, invisible unicorns living in my anus. Unfortunately, these cannot be detected by any kind of scientific equipment.
I guarantee you, once you learned how the mechanism works, you’ll look back on comments like these and ask yourself how you could have ever written such nonsense.
There are CO2 emission amounts that wouldn’t cause an increase of the CO2 concentration and there are CO2 emission amounts that would result in less than 100% responsibility for the increase.
You’ll see once you understand how it works. Until then …
I don’t think I’ll put much stock in your “guarantee”. Just about everything you’ve written I have seen before…many times.
“ask yourself how you could have ever written such nonsense.”
Seb-t.. we are ALWAYS asking how you manage to write so much such trite, anti-science NONSENSE.
I am SO, SO glad that you “believe” mankind is responsible for 100% of the increase, because with 1600+ new coal fired power stations being built around the world, that means that CO2 level will just keep CLIMBING and CLIMBING.
And guess what, petal…
… there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING your meaningless yapping can do about it. 🙂
How does that make you “feel” 😉
… hopelessly insignificant… would be my guess 🙂
And just like that he disappeared forever in the realm of unfalsifiable beliefs …
Since he believes that both increasing human emissions and decreasing human emissions are 100% responsible for net CO2 concentration changes, it is therefore not possible to ever falsify his version of truth. He’s set it up so that a correlation isn’t even needed to establish 100% causation.
Unfalsifiability is indeed the underlying issue here.
I believe I can explain this from SebastianH:
“There are CO2 emission amounts that wouldn’t cause an increase of the CO2 concentration and there are CO2 emission amounts that would result in less than 100% responsibility for the increase.”
He thinks that if the sum total over all time of emissions is less than the observed rise, then the rise must be due to the emissions. If it is less, then there is room for natural responsibility.
This is the pseudo-mass balance argument. It is hopelessly jejune and ignorant of how dynamic systems respond to inputs. I explain the weakness in the argument here.
SebastianH is an exemplar of smugnorance, smug ignorance. People he trusts have told him something and he has faith in them, and feels supremely confident in echoing their opinions. But, he obviously has no wherewithal by which to judge the problem for himself.
Sorry, Kenneth, I’m afraid it’s not going to happen. Pseudologia fantastica has been first described in 1891 but the syndrome is still not fully understood.
Perhaps seb-t could try reading and comprehending, instead of fantasising, just for once. !!
Try quoting something with more definitive language.
Wow are you that stupid,Sebastian?
You who keep trying to put words into Kenneth’s mouth,say this.
You are indeed pathetic.
What are these for? ” ” They are called QUOTES!
Being honest must be very hard for you.
Not hard, just unnecessary. Truth and accurate quoting are a petite bourgeois concept …
Try basic comprehension some time, seb-t..
Although, as has been noted many time, that your abilities in that area are clouded by a deep swilling of klimate kool-aide, rotting your already very basic thinking facilities.
” So many things he tries to ignore in order to be able to say nature is not a net sink and humans aren’t responsible for the CO2 concentration increase.”
I don’t see Kenneth saying it, but I will: Our contributions are negligible. It is a temperature dependent phenomenon in which the rate of change is proportional to appropriately baselined temperature anomaly.
SebastianH is one of those pseudo-mass balance adherents. They are idiots who do not understand how dynamic systems work.
The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is the result of a balance between incoming and outgoing flows. Our addition to the incoming flows is tiny. In a dynamic system, you cannot affect the resulting balance by a greater amount proportionately than the proportion of your addition to the flows that establish the balance.
Thanks for contributing again, Bartemis. I recall you contributed to the conversation (late) last time, pointing out how misguided SebastianH is on this topic. It’s worth repeating (since he didn’t seem to want to reply).
[…] Dr S. Lüning and F. Vahrenholt, July 26, 2017 in […]
Try comprehending what is actually written, !!
And stop making up your own klimate-kool-aide fantasy interpretations.