Bad news from Antarctica

Hot on the heels of the good news that the deep ocean conveyor doesn't appear to be on the verge of shutting down -- a scenario that would have eliminated many of the world's most important fisheries among other things -- comes the inevitable flipside bad news. The Southern Ocean has stopped absorbing carbon dioxide. Guess the honeymoon is over.

Just about every climate model includes the assumption that a good portion of all that CO2 we're pumping into the atmosphere will be absorbed by the oceans, and the Southern Ocean in particular. So in addition to forcing the climatologists back to the drawing board, it's quite worrisome if you're the sort of person who worries about the Earth warming by more than 2 degrees Celcius over the next few decades.

The Earth's carbon sinks absorb about half of all human-produced carbon emissions. The Southern Ocean is one of the biggest sinks, absorbing 15% of CO2 emissions. The gas dissolves into the ocean's surface waters and is stored at cool depths where it is retained far longer than it would be at the warmer surface.


"We found that the Southern Ocean reservoir has not changed in 24 years," [Corinne] Le Quéré [of the University of East Anglia in the UK], told New Scientist. "This is surprising, because during the same time CO2 emissions increased by 40%. As the sources of CO2 go up we would expect the reservoir to increase too."


Le Quéré ... and colleagues say their study suggests that climate feedback loops - whereby more CO2 in the atmosphere causes warming which in turn releases even more CO2 from the oceans - are happening between 20 and 40 years before they were expected. "This is serious," says Le Quéré. "All climate models predict that this kind of feedback will continue and intensify during this century."

It's also right in line with the discovery that the North Polar Sea could be ice-free in the summer 30 years ahead of schedule -- in as few as 13 years.

Well, at least Paul Wolfowitz, the guy who wanted to water down references to climate change (and family planning) in World Bank strategy documents, has finally resigned. So we can celebrate that.


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That's great news about the deep ocean thermohaline pump, that particular monster in the closet has concerned me for a few years, but the news about the southern ocean is very disturbing. It seems that no sooner is a set of predictions cautiously put forward than a newer set of data comes along that shows the previous predictions were too conservative. For the summer melting polar ice caps to go from 30 years to 13 years in a year or two leaves one to think it may not be surprising if that proves to be conservative as well. It's getting harder to not be a pessimist.

I used to be a global warming denier, because I thought there was not enough evidence for global warming. I finally accessed enough evidence to convince me about eight months ago. Please keep plugging this stuff. Some of us are harder to convince, and many of us do not have enough plainly presented evidence.

By speedwell (not verified) on 18 May 2007 #permalink

I was convinced in '81 when Sagan's COSMOS came out. It's available (in slightly updated form) on DVD now. He called it a "Great Uncontrolled Experiment".

It seems, once we figured out that Venus isn't a warm, tropical rain forest, but instead an oven driven by CO2 green house effect, it appears that we wanted to once again make Earth and Venus sister planets.

It doesn't matter if Global Warming is caused by humans. If there's something to do about it, it is our responsiblity to do something about it.

What to do? My car already gets 43 MPG. I've replaced most of the lights in the house with those curly tubes. I've added insulation to the attic. I've replaced the thermostat with one that doesn't heat the house when no one is in it.

These things all pay for themselves. If not in direct cost (though they have), then in comfort. Really, the house is less drafty in winter, and cooler in summer without having A/C blasting.

I'm going to have to re-roof the house soon. Perhaps white tile would reflect more light, and keep the attic cooler. A double roof might be even better.

I had been concerned about this thermohaline "border" but, as an old geologist, unqualified. Of the sporadic reports that I have found the Gulf Stream (Franklin Current) is off some 20%
The next tilting effect is the permafrost regions when the bacteria get busy again. I gather that fossil CH4 is more serious than the fossil CO2. Anyone got some numbers for an ole rockhound?


By andi stemisas (not verified) on 12 Apr 2008 #permalink

get yahoo internet

By andi stemias (not verified) on 12 Apr 2008 #permalink

The theory of occurring "Global Warming" has remained in a debate stage because of the lack of foundational presentation. Many evidences have been indicated but qualitative analysis has not concurred to produce linking effect that would in turn guide some semblance of a true trend. This trend would be able to be projected in a obviously concurrent condition. The climactic pendulum swing of our seemingly fragile ecosystem is to be viewed in a larger scale in order to fully come to an awareness of what is taking place on the planet. Bad science does not help find these answers. In fact it rips apart the credibility of those who link themselves to it rather than building consensus.

By Bill Bath (not verified) on 21 Feb 2009 #permalink

What a bunch of crap. Consensus will never be achieved on Global Warming. It has become a political football and because of the idiots who have presented bad science through propaganda the subject will continue to be tainted.