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Impact of Earth's rising atmospheric carbon dioxide found in world oceans

An international team of scientists has completed the first comprehensive study of the ocean storage of carbon dioxide derived from human activity, called anthropogenic CO2, based on a decade-long survey of global ocean carbon distributions in the 1990s.

The findings, along with those detailed in a companion paper on the impacts of anthropogenic CO2 on the chemistry of the oceans and the potential response of marine animals and plants to changes in CO2 levels, will be published in the July 16 issue of the journal Science.

"About half of the anthropogenic CO2 taken up over the last 200 years can be found in the upper 10 percent of the ocean," said Christopher Sabine, an oceanographer at NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL) in Seattle, Wash. Sabine is the lead author of one of the papers. "The ocean has removed 48 percent of the CO2 we have released to the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels and cement manufacturing."

Over the long-term, the ocean has been the only reservoir on Earth to consistently take up anthropogenic CO2 from the atmosphere. This uptake changes seawater chemistry, and can have significant impacts on the biology of the upper oceans.

The global survey combined carbon and other ocean measurements (such as temperature, salinity, oxygen, nutrients and chlorofluorocarbon tracers) in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. These oceans have taken up about 118 billion metric tons of anthropogenic CO2 between 1800 and 1994, about a third of their long-term potential.

The researchers, including scientists from the United States, South Korea, Australia, Canada, Japan, Spain, and Germany, reviewed data gathered during the 1990s as part of three major research programs: the National Science Foundation (NSF)-led World Ocean Circulation Experiment (WOCE) and Joint Global Ocean Flux Study (JGOFS); and the National Ocean
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