An ice-free arctic may not be large carbon sink

July 23rd, 2010
The Arctic Ocean has recently soaked up substantial amounts of carbon dioxide and may already be well on its way to reaching its limit as a carbon sink.

These findings are reported by Wei-Jun Cai and colleagues, who measured carbon dioxide levels in water samples taken from across the Arctic Ocean's Canada Basin. As the ocean warms and its sea ice continues to melt, more of the ocean's surface will be exposed. Because these waters are cold and home to large amounts of photosynthesizing microbes, researchers have noted the Arctic's important potential for taking up atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Exactly how carbon dioxide levels in Arctic surface waters may change in response to sea-ice melt has not been clear, however.

Cai and colleagues now report that the amount of carbon dioxide in these surface waters has increased markedly since previous observations in 1994 and 1999, except for in heavily ice-covered areas. This increase appears to be caused largely by rapid carbon dioxide influx from the atmosphere and a low level of biological "drawdown," due to the fact that the surface waters are relatively poor in nutrients.

More information:
This paper will be published online by the journal Science, at the Science Express website, on Thursday, 22 July. See www.sciencexpress.org

Provided by AAAS

This Phys.org Science News Wire page contains a press release issued by an organization mentioned above and is provided to you “as is” with little or no review from Phys.Org staff.

More news stories

Down's chromosome cause genome-wide disruption

The extra copy of Chromosome 21 that causes Down's syndrome throws a spanner into the workings of all the other chromosomes as well, said a study published Wednesday that surprised its authors.

Researchers see hospitalization records as additional tool

Comparing hospitalization records with data reported to local boards of health presents a more accurate way to monitor how well communities track disease outbreaks, according to a paper published April 16 in the journal PLOS ON ...

Ebola virus in Africa outbreak is a new strain

The Ebola virus that has killed scores of people in Guinea this year is a new strain—evidence that the disease did not spread there from outbreaks in some other African nations, scientists report.