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

ic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)'s Ocean-Atmosphere Carbon Exchange Study (OACES).

The new global data set of ocean carbon system observations, co-sponsored in the United States by NSF, NOAA and the Department of Energy, is unprecedented, say scientists, with 10 times more observations and 10 times better accuracy than the previous global survey in the 1970s.

"This research presents the first complete synthesis of modern global ocean inorganic carbon measurements," said James Yoder, director of NSF's ocean sciences division. "The results are among the most intriguing yet from the WOCE and JGOFS programs. These new measurements, when coupled with how much anthropogenic carbon dioxide is known to accumulate in the atmosphere, show that the ocean and atmosphere are the two primary 'sinks' [holding tanks] of this carbon dioxide since the beginning of the industrial revolution. The land is the 'source.'"

But that ocean "sink" may be changing, the studies conclude. "Feedbacks between the ocean and atmosphere involving air-sea exchange, ocean circulation and ocean biological processes need to be better understood," said Yoder.

Analysis of CO2 levels in ice cores have shown scientists that for the 400,000 years before the industrial revolution began in the 1800s, atmospheric CO2 concentrations remained between 200 and 280 parts per million. Today CO2 levels are reaching 380 parts per million in the atmosphere. "If the ocean had not removed 118 billion metric tons of anthropogenic carbon between 1800 and 1994, the CO2 level in the atmosphere would be about 55 parts per million greater than currently observed," said Sabine.

"Because CO2 is an acid gas, the surface ocean pH is dropping," said Richard Feely, a marine chemist at PMEL, and lead author of the companion paper. If current scenarios are realized, surface ocean pH could drop lower than it has been for more
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15-Jul-2004


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