Study reveals 'two faces' of phytoplankton

April 21, 2015
Credit: Tiago Fioreze / Wikipedia

Phytoplankton, commonly known as plant plankton that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis, are potentially a key driver of Arctic warming under greenhouse warming, a study reveals.

Scientists with Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH), Max Planck Institute for Meteorology (MPI-M), and Korea Institute of Ocean Science and Technology (KIOST), presented on Monday, April 20, in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) Online, the geophysical impact of that triggers positive feedbacks in the Arctic warming when the warming-induced melting of sea ice stimulates phytoplankton growth. The paper is titled "Amplified Arctic warming by phytoplankton under ."

When the Arctic sea ice melts away due to greenhouse warming, the ocean surface albedo inevitably decreases, reducing the amount of solar energy reflected back from the earth and ultimately resulting in warmer ocean surface. As phytoplankton growth is subject to factors such as temperature, light, and nutrients, the explosive growth of phytoplankton follow when both the warming-induced melting and shortwave radiation penetrating the ocean increase.

The new study has confirmed that it is the beginning of the geophysical feedback by which chlorophyll and the related pigments in phytoplankton absorb solar radiation and in turn raise the sea surface temperature even further. Using a coupled ocean-atmosphere model, the authors have revealed that the additional positive feedback in the Arctic can amplify Arctic warming by as much as 20%.

"We believe that, given the inseparable connection of the Arctic and global climate, the positive feedback in Arctic warming triggered by phytoplankton and their biological heating is a crucial factor that must be taken into consideration when projecting future climate changes," says Jong-Seong Kug, a professor at POSTECH's School of Environmental Science and Engineering and one of the leaders of this study.

Featured in "This Week in PNAS," this study is drawing significant attention from the academic community as the results presented by Kug et al. overturn the previous understanding of phytoplankton and their impacts on climate systems.

Explore further: Climate change linked to unexpected 'blooms' under Arctic ice, research says

More information: Amplified Arctic warming by phytoplankton under greenhouse warming, Jong-Yeon Park, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1416884112

Related Stories

Recommended for you

The sound of a healthy reef

August 26, 2016

A new study from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) will help researchers understand the ways that marine animal larvae use sound as a cue to settle on coral reefs. The study, published on August 23rd in the ...

10 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Water_Prophet
1 / 5 (3) Apr 21, 2015
Absolutely.

This is actually where warming comes in... Sunlight on the surface.

Things are getting interesting, boys and girls.
leetennant
4.2 / 5 (5) Apr 21, 2015
Except it was CO2 induced warming that melted the ice in the first place.
Water_Prophet
1 / 5 (2) Apr 21, 2015
I don't agree-there is a loose correlation between CO2 increase, and a direct correlation between fossil fuel consumption.

The energy that reaches the Earth from the Sun varies very little, only by about +/-0.2 Watts/m2. Whereas the amount of energy released by fossil fuels is ~ =0.03Watts/m2. *

This is released at ground level, and unlike the Sun's energy, is released as waste heat and predominantly in the Northern Hemisphere.

Since it appears at ground level, it is basically in the system, since it is waste heat, it is effectively trapped thermodynamically until it goes someplace "colder," and since it is in the Norther Hemisphere, that means we should see more effects there and, well more.

So, I think it was heating that melted the ice. It does make more sense, right? You can't melt more ice by putting it in an ice box, can you?

And this, this is sunlight entering, except for reflection, and warming the oceans.

Interesting times...
For consideratio
Water_Prophet
1 / 5 (2) Apr 21, 2015
*= If it were stronger it would have inarguable effects on the climate. Since everybody's arguing, the value we are looking for must be on the threshold.
There isn't any room for much else.
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (4) Apr 21, 2015
*= If it were stronger it would have inarguable effects on the climate. Since everybody's arguing, the value we are looking for must be on the threshold.
There isn't any room for much else.

Why the confusion in all this?!?
classicplastic
3.7 / 5 (3) Apr 22, 2015
"This is actually where warming comes in... Sunlight on the surface."

That's simply not accurate because it's not that simple: The sun delivers the heat energy. The atmospheric CO2 directly acts as heat insulation that keeps it from bouncing back out into space. The greater the insulation, the more heat is retained within the atmosphere.

Let's put this in simple terms that you can relate to: When you're living in your RV in the Walmart parking lot in winter and the heater is going full blast, do you leave the door open or keep it closed? That's pretty much the same way that the planet's atmosphere works.

We have too much insulation and since we can't turn down the sun, reducing insulation is our only practical angle of attack. This is possible by pumping all that lovely phytoplankton down into the ocean depths where the carbon will be safely sequestered for thousands of years. This is basically the Republican strategy of kicking the can down the road, but it will work.
Water_Prophet
1 / 5 (2) Apr 22, 2015
classic, put it in context of the article.

and a problem with an insulation is that it "warms", yes, but it also stabilizes. We are experiencing more extreme weather, which means the theory isn't fitting the data.

Whereas heat by heating would/should cause more extreme weather.
Mike_Massen
3 / 5 (2) Apr 23, 2015
Water_Prophet stated
classic, put it in context of the article
What is Water_Prophet on, he so often makes statements out of context, arbitrary dumb claims and yet with immense hypocrisy tries to tell people what to do, ie Crackpot.

Water_Prophet claims
... insulation is that it "warms", yes, but it also stabilizes. We are experiencing more extreme weather, which means the theory isn't fitting the data
No its Water_Prophet's banal naive uneducated immature cognition that doesnt fit.

Get a hand held IR remote temp sensor, with the laser pointer & THINK man, how to craft experiment re thermal resistivity experiment, Water_Prophet SHOULD know "Experimental Design" & test it out with a blanket over your body at night, it is plain to see the few degrees have a causal relationship with the blankets properties !

Water_Prophet claims
Whereas heat by heating would/should cause more extreme weather
Depends where & IF as there are still large cold areas !
Water_Prophet
1 / 5 (2) Apr 23, 2015
Though I suppose I should qualify my statement above. As the Equator to pole weather cells lessen we'll start getting less extreme weather as well. I think that is happening now, so the difference between the two models should be...

Anyone?
Mike_Massen
3 / 5 (2) Apr 24, 2015
Water_Prophet suggested
Though I suppose I should qualify my statement above
Water_Prophet refuses to qualify ANY of his claims re CO2, degrees, business, predictive analytics etc

Extremely selective, only able to qualify non-egotistical based claims, strange pattern that !

Water_Prophet claims
As the Equator to pole weather cells lessen we'll start getting less extreme weather as well
Can Water_Prophet qualify just what HE means by "lessen", can he quantify the aspect of his claim ?

Water_Prophet claims
I think that is happening now, so the difference between the two models should be
What is supposedly happening, lower temperature, changes in humidity, less heat, more turbulence, what precisely ?

Water_Prophet asks
Anyone?
Why should anyone engage Water_Prophet for any length of time on an important issue when he REFUSES to qualify all this claims ?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.