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An international research project led by scientists from ETH Zurich has determined the amount of man-made CO2 emissions taken up by the ocean between 1994 and 2007. Not all of the CO2 generated during the combustion of fossil fuels remains in the atmosphere and contributes to global warming. The ocean and the ecosystems on land take up considerable quantities of these man-made CO2 emissions from the atmosphere.
The ocean takes up CO2 in two steps: first, the CO2 dissolves in the surface water. Afterward, the ocean's overturning circulation distributes it: ocean currents and mixing processes transport the dissolved CO2 from the surface deep into the ocean's interior, where it accumulates over time.
Circulation - Force - Sink - CO2 - Size
This overturning circulation is the driving force behind the oceanic sink for CO2. The size of this sink is very important for the atmospheric CO2 levels: without this sink, the concentration of CO2 in our atmosphere and the extent of anthropogenic climate change would be considerably higher.
Determining what share of the man-made CO2 the oceans absorb has long been a priority for climate researchers. An international team of scientists led by Nicolas Gruber, Professor for Environmental Physics at ETH Zurich, has now determined this oceanic sink over a period of 13 years. As reported in the latest issue of Science, the researchers have found that the ocean has taken up from the atmosphere as much as 34 gigatonnes (billions of metric tonnes) of man-made carbon between 1994 and 2007. This figure corresponds to 31 per cent of all anthropogenic CO2 emitted during that time.
Percentage - CO2 - Oceans - Years - Quantity
This percentage of CO2 taken up by the oceans has remained relatively stable compared to the preceding 200 years, but the absolute quantity has increased substantially. This is because as long as the atmospheric concentration of CO2 rises, the oceanic sink strengthens more or less proportionally: the...
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