According to a group of Swiss academics, the Southern Ocean also known as the Antarctic Ocean shows signs that it has increased its annual absorption of harmful greenhouse gas emissions in the past few years.
Researchers hope that the Southern Ocean could help humanity in its struggle to curb climate change. Their report, which was released Thursday, shows that the amount of greenhouse gases the ocean absorbed four years ago nearly doubled from the amounts observed a decade earlier.
Currently, the Southern Ocean can naturally absorb 1.2 billion tons of harmful gasses every year, which is an equivalent to the amount of carbon emissions the E.U. can produce every year.
ETH Zurich university’s Nicolas Gruber, senior researcher involved in the study, said that the findings were a sign that climate change can be slowed down at least for the moment.
But researchers weren’t able to tell for how long the Southern Ocean would keep the current pace in absorbing carbon. They noticed that the ocean is highly “variable.”
The study was based on more than 2.6 million water samples and other analyses provided by ships over more than 30 years. Scientists likened the Southern Ocean, which is now the body of water with the largest carbon dioxide uptake in the world, to a “giant lung” that cleans the atmosphere from noxious gases.
Yet, the recent study was a big surprise to many researchers because past research had shown that carbon dioxide absorption in the region remained flat for nearly three decades. As a result, many scientists were concerned that the region may have become saturated and the ocean would no longer soak up the excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
UN experts were concerned that that may lead to a spike in megadroughts, heatwaves, floods, and temperature warming worldwide.
Climate experts at the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research in New Zealand recently reported that oceans and seas worldwide absorbed more than 25 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions since the Industrial Revolution began.
Furthermore, New Zealand researchers said that the Antarctic Ocean absorbed 40 percent of that share, but the team couldn’t forecast whether the effect would last long as climate continues to alter.
Researchers also argued that absorbing too much carbon dioxide may be harmful to marine creatures living in the ocean because the greenhouse gas gets transformed into carbonic acid which increases the levels of acidification of the ocean. And, acidic water usually prevents calcium absorption in some marine creatures including mussels and lobsters that can no longer form their hard shells.
Image Source: Pixabay
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