Surprise: Coastal waters are absorbing more carbon dioxide

From the UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE

Coastal water absorbing more carbon dioxide

Findings may help scientists understand how much carbon dioxide can be released while still limiting global warming

As more carbon dioxide enters the atmosphere, the global ocean soaks up much of the excess, storing roughly 30 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions coming from human activities.

In this sense, the ocean has acted as a buffer to slow down the greenhouse gas accumulation in the atmosphere and, thus, global warming. However, this process also increases the acidity of seawater and can affect the health of marine organisms and the ocean ecosystem.

New research by University of Delaware oceanographer Wei-Jun Cai and colleagues at Université Libre de Bruxelles, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, University of Hawaii at Manoa and ETH Zurich, now reveals that the water over the continental shelves is shouldering a larger portion of the load, taking up more and more of this atmospheric carbon dioxide.

The study findings, published in Nature Communications on Wednesday, Jan. 31, may have important implications for scientists focused on understanding the global carbon budget.

Understanding how carbon flows between land, air and water is key to predicting how much greenhouse gas emissions the earth, atmosphere and ocean can tolerate over a given time period to keep global warming and climate change at thresholds considered tolerable.

The study authors used recently available and historical data from the past 35 years to calculate global trends of carbon dioxide concentration increases in the coastal ocean. The analysis revealed that, while the amount of carbon dioxide in the open ocean is increasing at the same rate as in the atmosphere, these same carbon dioxide concentrations are increasing slower in the coastal ocean.

This is an aerial view of the coast near University of Delaware’s Hugh R Sharp campus in Lewes.
CREDIT University of Delaware Robotics Discovery Lab

“This is because the coastal ocean is shallower than the open ocean and can quickly transfer sequestered carbon dioxide to the deep ocean; this process creates an additional and effective pathway for the ocean to take up and store anthropogenic carbon dioxide,” said Cai, the Mary A.S. Lighthipe Professor in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment.

Though relatively small in comparison to the open ocean, the coastal zones are where an extremely large amount of the carbon dioxide is exchanged between air and water.

“If this conclusion is confirmed by future observations, it would mean that the coastal ocean will become more and more efficient at removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere,” said Goulven Lurallue, the paper’s lead author and a researcher with Université Libre de Bruxelles in Belgium.

Until recently, these trends were extremely difficult to calculate due to a lack of data about carbon dioxide in coastal waters. Complicating matters further, coastal zones behave differently depending of their location and topography. For example, in higher latitudes such as northern Canada and Greenland, coastal waters usually act as carbon sinks, absorbing excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. In in tropical areas such as the South China Sea, coastal waters are generally considered a source of carbon dioxide.

At the same time, human activities have increased the amount of nutrient pollution entering coastal waters from things like fertilizer on land. These nutrients stimulate the growth of algae within the continental shelves, which subsequently removes more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, the researchers said.

According to the research team, this suggests that the continental shelves are becoming a crucial element in the global carbon cycle and for the climate system.

“It is important that scientists take into account the contribution of continental shelves to calculate global carbon budgets,” said Pierre Regnier, professor at Université Libre de Bruxelles. “The possibility of shelves becoming a more important carbon dioxide sink in the future should be considered in global carbon cycle models and flux assessments.”

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72 thoughts on “Surprise: Coastal waters are absorbing more carbon dioxide

  1. If you don’t like the current version of the carbon cycle, just wait a month or two, and a new paper will come out saying it ought to be thoroughly revised.

      • And how does this “greenhouse gas” property manifest itself on Mars?
        If it doesn’t exist on Mars …

      • @Thomas Homer
        Being a Greenhouse gas is not enough to heat Earth’s surface, any more than being a coolant gas is enough for Freon to cool your fridge. You need a heat engine for that.
        Heat engine strength depends on the thickness of atmosphere(*). Mars’ is very low, while Venus’ is very high
        (*) Top Of Atmosphere is where the equilibrium of in and out energy occurs; then surface temperature are derived out of lapse rate, increasing with thickness according to lapse rate formula.
        Strangely enough, adding a non GHG to mars atmosphere would increase GHE just as much as adding a GHG

      • paqyfelyc – Thank you for that response. I’ve asked this question several times and you are the first to respond with a reasonable thought. I’ve been told that the Mars’ atmosphere is warmer than it would be if the CO2 were replaced with nitrogen. Of course, no one has yet to include any type of formula or equation, so they cannot derive a value for how much warmer and for how long.

      • paqyfelyc wrote, “Being a Greenhouse gas is not enough to heat Earth’s surface, any more than being a coolant gas is enough for Freon to cool your fridge. You need a heat engine for that.”
        That is incorrect. GHGs are colorants, because they change the absorption spectrum of the atmosphere. That is, they change its “color,” albeit in the far infrared part of the EM spectrum, rather than in the visible part. If you don’t think a color change can affect temperature then take your shoes off while standing on a light-colored sidewalk on a hot summer day, and then step, in bare feet, onto a black asphalt parking lot. That will change your mind!
        http://sealevel.info/white_sidewalk_and_black_asphalt.png
        CO2 warms the air by dying it to a “color” which absorbs far infrared.
        The Earth emits as much radiant energy as it absorbs, but since nearly all of the energy emissions from the Earth are in the far infrared & longer bands, and over half of the incoming energy (from the Sun) is at shorter wavelengths (near infrared, visible & UV), tinting the atmosphere in the far infrared has a differential effect. Since there’s more outgoing than incoming far infrared, GHGs absorb mostly outgoing radiation, preventing it from escaping into space. That causes warming.
        It’s not how actual greenhouses work, but it’s still a real effect.
        Greenhouse warming of the air, in turn, warms the ground, by a couple of mechanisms, including increased “downwelling” infrared back-radiation from the air. Here’s a good article:
        http://barrettbellamyclimate.com/page8.htm
        As anyone who has ever added food coloring to a recipe can attest (if they do the arithmetic, comparing volumes of food coloring to the rest of the ingredients), it only takes a few ppm to tint a solution.
        0.04% = 400 ppmv = a very heavy dose of colorant. We’re way past the point of diminishing returns w/r/t the warming effect of CO2. MODTRAN Tropical Atmosphere calculates that just 20 ppmv CO2 would have fully half as much warming effect as the current 400 ppmv. That’s why additional CO2 has only a modest warming effect: it’s not because 0.04% is so little, but because it is already so much.
        For a deeper treatment, I recommend this UNC Physics colloquium by Princeton atmospheric physicist Will Happer:
        http://www.sealevel.info/Happer_UNC_2014-09-08/
        After watching the lecture, be sure to also look at some of the follow-up links, including the “another_question” link.

      • Thomas Homer, where & when there’s less sunlight, the temperature difference resulting from the absorption or non-absorption of that sunlight will be reduced. So the heating of blacktop compared to a white sidewalk is most noticeable on a sunny summer day.
        Mars gets only about 44% as much sunlight as the Earth, so it should not surprise you that it is cold, in spite of having more CO2 in the atmosphere than the Earth has.
        Note, too, that although Mars has more CO2 than the Earth, it has a lot less H2O vapor, and on Earth H2O vapor is the more important of the two GHGs.

      • @daveburton
        way too long comment.
        Saying that GHG change the color of the atmosphere seems both very correct and very relevant. I will use it from now on. However, the atmosphere is already so dark , as far as outgoing IR are concerned, that making it slightly darker has close to nil no effect. Already ~90% of Earth surface emissions from are intercepted by the atmosphere, and a few more GHG will change that insignificantly.
        This color change also change (and increase) the optical thickness of atmosphere (hence surface temperature). This, however, is only relevant when the GHG content is low and hence the optical thickness close to the ground. It currently is NOT so on Earth or Venus, ant not even on Mars. For all three planets, effective altitude of emission is already very close to the maximum, and won’t increase significantly if you add GHG colorant in their respective atmosphere

      • @DaveBurton
        “Mars gets only about 44% as much sunlight as the Earth, so it should not surprise you that it is cold, in spite of having more CO2 in the atmosphere than the Earth has.”
        Actually, this 44% is what the Sun sends to Mars. Venus receives 190%. But you must correct by Bond Albedo (respectively Venus / Earth / Mars): 0.77 / 0.30 / 0.25. to get what they really receive from the Sun: 0.23 / 0.7 / 0.75, and then it turns: 0.23*1.9= 0.44 / 0.70 / 0.44*0.75 = 0.33. Or, as a % of what actually received on Earth, 62% / 100% / 47%.
        You may then take into consideration the fraction from ground radiation that can get through the atmosphere, directly to space (only ~10% for the Earth), that is, Earth Atmosphere is 90% “black” already for ground emission. I don’t know the figure for Venus, but is cannot be higher than 100%, so Venus as less energy than Earth in any case.
        So per this explanation Venus should be colder than Earth. Obviously doesn’t work.
        To have it work, you just need to understand that this calculation is correct but applies as seen from space, at relevant altitude in atmosphere, and afterward you derive surface temperature as per lapse rate formula. Then Venus atmosphere thickness (much more that GHG content) explains the furnace, and you understand why you need to know more than GHG content and sunlight to explain why Mars is colder. Mars atmosphere thickness matters, and so does its gravity (as lapse rate depends on it)

      • daveburton says: “… it should not surprise you that it is cold, in spite of having more CO2 in the atmosphere than the Earth has.
        Note, too, that although Mars has more CO2 than the Earth, it has a lot less H2O vapor, and on Earth H2O vapor is the more important of the two GHGs.”
        When did I say I was surprised? It’s you that seems surprised that no one can find any discernible way to quantify the “greenhouse gas” property of CO2, even when it makes up 95% of the Mars’ atmosphere. If it were an actual property, we’d be able to measure it. And, it would still resolve to something on Mars.
        Again, there are no formulae or equations that represent how the “greenhouse gas” property of CO2 manifests itself anywhere. That’s why you’re left with saying that H2O is a “more important” “greenhouse gas” than CO2. So “importance” is a characteristic of this physical property that can’t be measured? (Physical properties are things which can be measured, so since the “greenhouse gas” property can’t be measured, it’s not an actual physical property).
        Humans knew that the planet Neptune existed before it was ever seen due to our ability to quantify the Theory of Gravity. Yet we have no ability to quantify the purported “greenhouse gas” property of CO2 on Mars when it makes up 95% of the atmosphere.

  2. Presumably a lot of CO2 is dissolved in developing rain, up in the clouds, and brought back down to earth. Does anyone have any figures on this?

    • They have some, Alasdair, but they are probably inadequate.
      If you look up the solubility of CO2 in water you will find plenty of graphs showing how CO2 solubility in water increases exponentially as the temperature approaches 0 °C, the freezing point of water. But, but, but…cloud droplets often remain liquid as far down as -50 °C. Supersaturation!!
      I would genuinely be interested if you found some sources for the solubility of CO2 in cloud droplets at those temperatures.
      Doubltless, Steven “kinetics can tell you nothing” Mosher will be along in due course to explain how he works around this piece of non-equilibrium thermodynamics.

    • Pure rainwater has a pH of c. 5.5 due to dissolved CO2. Average global preciptiation is about 1,000 millimetera (40 inches).

      • The dissolution of carbon dioxide in pure water (as in rainwater) does render it acidic, by the formation of carbonic acid (H2CO3).
        But ocean water, with its dissolved salts, is normally alkaline, with a pH ranging from 8.1 to 8.5. It also acts as a buffer solution to mitigate the effects of dissolution of CO2 in water. Carbonic acid tends to dissociate in water to a hydronium ion H3O+ (acid) and bicarbonate ion HCO3-, which can further dissociate to form carbonate ion CO3=.
        Calcium ions (Ca++) dissolved in sea water react with bicarbonate and carbonate ions to form insoluble calcium bicarbonate or calcium carbonate salts. In shallow water near the coast, this can be absorbed in corals or mollusks to form their shells. In deep ocean water, calcium carbonate sinks to the sea floor and essentially sequesters the absorbed CO2 in the form of solid calcium carbonate. These reactions tend to slow (buffer) the tendency of the ocean to become less alkaline by addition of carbonic acid.
        Even if, as tty pointed out, the average area of ocean receives 1 meter per year of precipitation at pH 5.5, the average depth of the ocean is about 1,700 meters, so mixing 1 part rainwater at pH 5.5 with 1700 parts ocean water at pH 8.3 or so still results in an alkaline mixture.

      • tty
        “Pure rainwater has a pH of c. 5.5 due to dissolved CO2.”
        Don’t forget NOx .. If you’ve ever been close enough to a lighting strike to REALLY get your attention you may have noticed an orange/brown cloud of NO2 around the strike zone…nature’s way of fixing Nitrogen for the plants that can’t do it directly from the atmosphere.

  3. …Presumably a lot of CO2 is dissolved in developing rain, up in the clouds, and brought back down to earth. Does anyone have any figures on this?…
    Here are the figures:
    1 – LOTS! (if you’re spreading scares about acid rain)
    2 – Hardly any. (if you’re suggesting that it might lower the danger from human CO2…)

    • They have some, Alasdair, but they are probably inadequate.
      If you look up the solubility of CO2 in water you will find plenty of graphs showing how CO2 solubility in water increases exponentially as the temperature approaches 0 °C, the freezing point of water. But, but, but…cloud droplets often remain liquid as far down as -50 °C. Supersaturation!!
      I would genuinely be interested if you found some sources for the solubility of CO2 in cloud droplets at those temperatures.
      Doubltless, Steven “kinetics can tell you nothing” Mosher will be along in due course to explain how he works around this piece of non-equilibrium thermodynamics.

    • Home experiment: drink a bottle of club soda (aka ‘soda water’) to get a real taste of just how diabolically acidic carbon dioxide can really be.

  4. Re: “the water over the continental shelves is shouldering a larger portion of the load, taking up more and more of this atmospheric carbon dioxide.”
    but: “while the amount of carbon dioxide in the open ocean is increasing at the same rate as in the atmosphere, these same carbon dioxide concentrations are increasing slower in the coastal ocean.”
    That suggests to me that something is at work other than just “because the coastal ocean is shallower than the open ocean and can quickly transfer sequestered carbon dioxide to the deep ocean”
    Re: “At the same time, human activities have increased the amount of nutrient pollution entering coastal waters from things like fertilizer on land. These nutrients stimulate the growth of algae within the continental shelves, which subsequently removes more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.”
    What, no mention of the fact that CO2, itself, acts as a “fertilizer” stimulating the growth of plants (including algae), and thereby removing CO2 faster? (Well, maybe there is in the actual paper — I haven’t read it yet.)
    “Greening” on land from CO2 fertilization is a well-known negative feedback, which reduces the effect of CO2 emissions. I have no doubt that it also accounts for a portion of the ocean’s uptake of CO2.

    • It isn’t just plants, either. Shellfish, diatoms, etc all take CO2 out of the water & use it to make their shells. When they die, they fall to the bottom & store it until they return several million years later at the top of the mountain. It is extremely unlikely that CO2 could build up to levels where the water could be described as “acidic”.

      • Higher CO2 level is documented to stimulate the growth of calcifying coccolithophores, which make calcium carbonate shells from it. Whey they die their shells slowly settle into the ocean depths, but it is my understanding that as they fall the increased water pressure causes at least some of the calcium carbonate to dissolve back into the water.
        If that is correct, then some of that CO2 is not sequestered for “several million years.” But it is, at least, transported to the ocean depths, sooner than the ≈1K-year Atlantic Conveyor (AMOC) cycle time would suggest.

  5. For example, in higher latitudes such as northern Canada and Greenland, coastal waters usually act as carbon sinks, absorbing excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. In in tropical areas such as the South China Sea, coastal waters are generally considered a source of carbon dioxide.
    That statement right there destroys the claim that the oceans are both warming and becoming more acidic. It is cooler oceans that absorb CO2. So (if) ocean acidification could occur the oceans have to be cooling.

    • No. Life matters, literally. That is:
      Carbon cycle in the ocean is dominated by life forms, actively turning CO2 into carbonate minerals and future oil deposits out of fatty acid downward. And, of course, eating up acidity from in the process, turning the ocean alkaline (ocean pH is not a god-given creation, it is the result of evolution: everyone worrying is just a creationist!).
      This means ocean always suck CO2 out of the atmosphere, whatever temperature change it experiences.
      This also means this acidic nonsense is just that: nonsense. Live eats up the acidity, and that’s why ocean is alkaline, and will stay so. That’s also why corals and building carbonate shell animals thrived in the ocean when atmosphere had 10X CO2 than it has now.

      • Ocean alkalinity is not due to biological activity. Salt water is always alkaline. And so is the ocean floor which is composed of alkaline volcanics. As someone said the ocean is an alkaline liquid in an alkaline container and therefore can’t ever become acid.

      • @tty
        You think I overestimate biological activity effects. I think you underestimate them. Life forms literally litters the floor with their remain, ultimately turned into chalk for instance. I know of no place where seawater interact with its container without life forms messing around. Even in the depth of Mariana Trench.
        Biological activity explains why seawater pH swings wildly during a single day, so it obviously have an effect on the long run, too. .

    • Exactly. Certain oceanic areas will remain sources, and other areas will remain sinks, whatever humans do. And they will vary, outside of human influences.
      The concept of a singular average “ocean response” to CO2 is as meaningless as the concept of a a meaningful global temperature average. CO2 may be a ‘well mixed gas” at Mauna Loa (and it is probably not), but it isn’t where it matters for the carbon cycle. This is one of the good primary reasons for wishing to build complex computer models in the first place, but then the proponents try to reduce it to a simple political numeric when funding-time comes around.

    • Carbon Cycle
      Over the millennia every carbon atom has been recycled; most of the time being chemically sequestered and fixed. The carbon cycle in nature accounts for trillions of tonnes of carbon. At present in the atmosphere there are 2,900 giga tonnes of CO2 and in the oceans more than 50 times this amount creating a massive imbalance. The oceans and biosphere possess a large buffering capacity, mainly because of CO2’s large ‘solubility’ in water. The effects of CO2 emissions are not cumulative.
      CO2- Water Solubility
      Henry’s-law constant for CO2-water solutions is 1.42×10^3 at 20 C (7). At equilibrium the oceans therefore should hold only 30% of the 2,900 giga tonnes of the atmospheric CO2 if simple Henry’s-law solubilities were applied not 50 times which is the actual figure. In fact, for an ideal vapour-liquid equilibrium system obeying Raoult’s law, to contain this colossal amount (145,000 giga tonnes) of CO2 in the oceans, an atmospheric pressure of 175 atmospheres would be required or alternatively 61,200ppm of atmospheric CO2 at a partial pressure of 0.06 ats. The majority share of CO2 is taken up by the oceans competing with the biosphere’s CO2 requirements for plant growth and food supply. Non-ideality accounts for its large solubility in water and clearly it is sequestered and fixed by chemical and biological reactions. They involve the formation of carbonate rocks and phytoplankton growth through photosynthesis. The reactions remove dissolved CO2 from the equilbrium equation, driving it to the right, thereby giving the oceans a near limitless ability to absorb CO2.
      Solubilty of CO2 T deg C 0 10 20 30 40 50 60
      Hx10^-3 0.728 1.04 1.42 1.86 2.33 2.83 3.41
      At T C xa 4.80769E-07 3.36538E-07 2.46479E-07 1.88172E-07
      Kg CO2 in 100kg H2O @ T C 0.000117391 8.21737E-05 6.01835E-05 4.59466E-05
      Kg CO2 in 1 tonne H2O @ T C 0.00117391 0.000821737 0.000601835 0.000459466
      Kg CO2 in 1 km^3 H2O @ T C 1173909.896 821736.8086 601835.3549 459465.6743 1000000000
      Km^3 H2O required for air CO2 2459613232 O2 4797598363
      Giga km^3 required 2.459613232 32.7 4.797598363
      50x giga km^3 rqd 122.9806616 H2S 239.8799182
      Volume of oceans giga km^3 1.37 0.367 1.37
      % atmospheric CO2 H’s-law 28.6
      CO2
      Plot of pmm Hg v x 10 C x*10^3 0.00034 0.05000 0.1265 0.2024 0.2530 0.5000
      p 0.266 39.52 100.00 160.00 200.00 395.2
      O2
      x*10^3 0.00080 0.00159 0.0040 0.0064 0.0080 0.0159 0.02253
      p 20 39.52 100.00 159.6 200.00 395.2 560.00
      H2S
      x*10^3 0.07171 0.14169 0.3585 0.5378 0.7171 0.8067 0.89990
      p 20 39.52 100.00 150.00 200.00 225 251.00
      Actual CO2/km^3 seawater te 105215.9711 105215.9711
      Mole fraction xco2 4.30902E-05 4.30889E-05
      Partial pressure ats 0.061188072 0.06118619
      Total pressure ats 174.8230634 174.8230634 61187
      Actual CO2 in seawater giga te 144145.8805
      For total pressure of 1at yco2 0.061188072
      CO2 ppm for 0.0612 yco2 61188.07219
      Check
      Actual CO2/km^3 seawater te 105378.2596
      Mole fraction xco2 4.31553E-05
      Partial pressure of CO2 ats 0.061280561
      Mole fraction 350ppm CO2 yco2 0.00035 0.00035 0.00035
      Total pressure ats 175.0873177
      CO2 ppm for 1at & 0.0613 yco2 61280.56118

    • Not exactly, Myron. There is an equilibrium between atmosphere and oceans (which they probably never reach, but will always tend to move towards).
      At any given total CO2 content of the atmosphere+ocean system, if the ocean warms, it will lose CO2 and atmospheric CO2 will increase. You’re right there, it’s Henry’s law (although most CO2 in ocean water is not actually dissolved CO2 but is present as bicarbonate or carbonate ions, or even small amounts of undissociated carbonic acid). It also applies to any other dissolved gases (like oxygen, which fish need to breathe for example).
      But if extra CO2 is added to the atmosphere without significant temperature change, oceans will absorb some of that, as they move towards equilibrium with the air.
      It’s a dynamic system. Which will prevail in the long term, as surface waters ultimately mix with deep ocean waters, who can tell. There seems to be very limited short-term data showing oceanic CO2 content has increased in the last 30 years, and ocean pH has gone down very slightly. The (U.S.) EPA shows pH at Bermuda dropping from about 8.10 in 1984 to about 8.08 in 2016, while Hawaii data shows a drop from about 8.11 in 1989 to about 8.07 in 2016. And there are matching increases in dissolved CO2 https://www.epa.gov/climate-indicators/climate-change-indicators-ocean-acidity.
      I wonder how representative those numbers are of global oceans? I’m not sure I would trust the EPA not to ignore data that doesn’t fit the narrative.

      • ” EPA shows pH at Bermuda dropping from about 8.10 in 1984 to about 8.08 in 2016, while Hawaii data shows a drop from about 8.11 in 1989 to about 8.07 in 2016″
        …only problem they have is trying to show an increase in CO2….50 ppm…..is not enough to show the drop in pH they claim

      • Latitude,
        I presume the measured differences of 0.02 or 0.04 pH units are determined with litmus paper!!!!!
        Better pH meters than I have ever encountered old mate!!!

  6. “Coastal waters are absorbing more carbon dioxide” … than …?
    …Before?
    …Other, non coastal, waters?
    …They thought?
    YAFTCCO (yet another fail to credit captain obvious)
    “This is because the coastal ocean is shallower than the open ocean and can quickly transfer sequestered carbon dioxide to the deep ocean” …
    WTF ????
    This read gibbering nonsense to me. Please someone explain how being coastal and shallower (that is, with NO deep ocean close) can speed up a transfer to deep ocean?

    • I’m with you on this one. Any CO2 “transferring” to the deep ocean would have to have a seaward flux through waters that already have CO2 in them. This reduces the driving force for mass transfer, as opposed to the open ocean that has waters at the same depths as at the coast but is in direct contact with the lower-CO2 ocean depths. I can buy the biological activity theory but not the “shallower waters” theory.

      • “This reduces the driving force for mass transfer, as opposed to the open ocean that has waters at the same depths as at the coast but is in direct contact with the lower-CO2 ocean depths.”
        As a matter of fact the amount of dissolved CO2 increases with depth down to a depth of about 1,000 and then decreases slowly, but even so the deep ocean holds much more CO2 than surface water. This is due to biological actvity that successively converts O2 to CO2.

  7. This is because the coastal ocean is shallower than the open ocean and can quickly transfer sequestered carbon dioxide to the deep ocean; this process creates an additional and effective pathway for the ocean to take up and store anthropogenic carbon dioxide

    I call BS on this! It is because the shallow oceans are more biologically active and convert the CO2 to plant life – NOT because it transfers it to the deep ocean. What do these people imagine? a pool of CO2 on the ocean floor?!!!

  8. “…the global ocean soaks up much of the excess, storing roughly 30 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions coming from human activities.”


    I’ll settle for between 10% and 90%. The problem is, that you can then be accused of knowing nothing useful…a charge I would accept if I was a climate scientist…which I aspire to never be called.

  9. The fish will be happy – more food. But pity the trees and grass as the oceans steal their breakfast.

    • Life is a B!tch. Why do you think herbivores don’t league to fend of predator? That would be easy, a zebra is no match for a lion, but a lion is no match to a zebra herd. Well, that’s because other zebras (and gnus etc.) are the one to steal the breakfast of each, not the lion.

  10. Oh Noes! More C02 uptake by the oceans will make the oceans more acidic!!!
    Or perhaps the oceans increase their rate of making limestone? It’s like these people don’t have a inter-disciplinary view of processes. This isn’t even mentioned. It’s as if all the C02 that gets into the ocean just stays dissolved as carbonic acid rather than entering the carbon chain.
    But, can’t pursue any evidence that dampens down the emergency 🙂

  11. Carbon Cycle
    Over the millennia every carbon atom has been recycled; most of the time being chemically sequestered and fixed. The carbon cycle in nature accounts for trillions of tonnes of carbon. At present in the atmosphere there are 2,900 giga tonnes of CO2 and in the oceans more than 50 times this amount creating a massive imbalance. The oceans and biosphere possess a large buffering capacity, mainly because of CO2’s large ‘solubility’ in water. The effects of CO2 emissions are not cumulative.
    CO2- Water Solubility
    Henry’s-law constant for CO2-water solutions is 1.42×10^3 at 20 C (7). At equilibrium the oceans therefore should hold only 30% of the 2,900 giga tonnes of the atmospheric CO2 if simple Henry’s-law solubilities were applied not 50 times which is the actual figure. In fact, for an ideal vapour-liquid equilibrium system obeying Raoult’s law, to contain this colossal amount (145,000 giga tonnes) of CO2 in the oceans, an atmospheric pressure of 175 atmospheres would be required or alternatively 61,200ppm of atmospheric CO2 at a partial pressure of 0.06 ats. The majority share of CO2 is taken up by the oceans competing with the biosphere’s CO2 requirements for plant growth and food supply. Non-ideality accounts its large solubility in water and clearly it is sequestered and fixed by chemical and biological reactions. They involve the formation of carbonate rocks and phytoplankton growth through photosynthesis. The reactions remove dissolved CO2 from the equilbrium equation, driving it to the right, thereby giving the oceans a near limitless ability to absorb CO2.

    • ” clearly it is sequestered and fixed by chemical and biological reactions” Do you have information on the details of the inorganic reaction that sequesters carbon dioxide?

      • Dissolution of CO2 in water:
        CO2(g) + H2O(L) –> H2CO3 (aq)
        Dissociation of carbonic acid:
        H2CO3(aq) + H2O(L) –> H3O+ (aq) + HCO3- (aq)
        Second dissociation of bicarbonate:
        HCO3-(aq) + H2O(L) –> H3O+ (aq) + CO3= (aq)
        Precipitation of inorganic carbonate in sea water:
        Ca++(aq) + CO3= (aq) –> CaCO3 (s), insoluble calcium carbonate.
        This is an inorganic reaction that can sequester CO2 in deep oceans.
        In shallow water exposed to sunlight, phytoplankton can absorb CO2 for photosynthesis, releasing oxygen for use by fish, and providing food for small marine organisms. Also, coral and mollusks can use CaCO3 for their shells.

  12. “As more carbon dioxide enters the atmosphere, the global ocean soaks up much of the excess, storing roughly 30 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions coming from human activities.”
    As Javier has pointed out, no one really knows this — it’s basically guesswork on top of guesswork.

    • “storing roughly 30 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions coming from human activities whatever.
      There, FIFY.

  13. The U of Delaware has a master propagandist. Note the language.
    “…ocean soaks up the excess..”
    “…buffer to slow down GHG accumulation….. and thus global warming…”
    “… increase the acidity of seawater…”
    In this paragraph, an unfortunate juxtaposition, in the two sentences, of buffer and the pH of seawater. Perhaps not a master of the science.
    Paragraph 5 uses tolerate and tolerable to further the thesis that CO2 is the master switch for warming, that warming is bad.
    I am not qualified to comment on the science, but have a sharp eye for rubbish.

  14. “this process also i̶n̶c̶r̶e̶a̶s̶e̶s̶ decreases the a̶c̶i̶d̶i̶t̶y̶ alkalinity of seawater”
    Fixed it for you. Climate science is so base.

  15. Am I a genius or have I missed something?
    Coastal shelves are where all the ocean photo-synthesisers live are they not?
    Warm seas, nutrients off the land, sun, extra CO2…then eaten by fish who take the carbon up the food chain… ultimately to form organic oozes and muds in the deep ocean?

    • There are planktonic photosynthesizers in the photic zone of the deep ocean as well. And actually very little organic material accumulates in the deep ocean – it almost all gets eaten. Large amounts of organics only accumulate in anoxic environments where no aerobic organisms can live. Most oil and gas “source rocks” has accumulated during (geologically) brief intervals when the deep ocean was anoxic – something that can’t happen in the present “icehouse” climate.

  16. If CO2 were so nasty, our species never would have has a chance to evolve, or any of the other organisms on the planet. Everything would have been wiped out by the heat and acidic oceans 100s of millions of years ago! Why is this lost on these folks?
    I’ve actually tested oceanic waters around the world with my little hand-held pH meter, so far, all is good. It’s called field work and observation, if these alarmists would get their heads our of their computer models and go outside for a look around, they might be amazed.
    PMK

  17. Without turbulence you get very little heat transfer from the atmosphere to sea water. (skin effect) Where is the most sea surface turbulence? ……. At the coasts (and storms)

    • and mixing (absorption-equilibrium) of air with sea water. Went off on a bit of a temperature tangent there. Oops

  18. “[T]his process also increases the acidity of seawater”? Sea water is a terrific buffer solution with a slightly alkaline pH (>7.0 in almost all locations). All the whinging about the ‘acidification’ of the oceans is based on fluctuations in the measurement of aqueous pH that are near the limit of instrumental resolution and subject to instrumental and procedural differences in measurement *technique* (something almost universally underreported in the scientific literature!).
    To lower the pH of sea water to anything ‘acidic’ would require a LOT more CO2 than the atmosphere holds. Meanwhile the CO2 already in the oceans is present predominantly (`90%) as bicarbonate, the optimum for required for plankton, foraminifera, and coral to build their skeletons and coral reefs. CO2 complies with Leibig’s Law of the Minimum, so increasing the availability of CO2 to sea life will overall increase the growth of corals and the microscopic life forms that are the basis of the marine food chain.

    • Tadchem, acidity does not depend on CO2 amount that the atmosphere holds, but on CO2 solubility in water (partial pressure, temperature, salinity). Chemical reactions leading to the formation of acid during CO2 dissolution are given in Steve Zell post (Febr.1, 1:57 p.m.), but it’s necessary to make clarifications.
      Both the first and the second reactions (CO2 hydration and H2CO3 dissociation) are reversible and strongly shifted to the left. Quantitative description of this reactions (hydration and dissociation constants) is given in the article: A.L.Soli, R.H.Byrne. Marine Chemistry, 78, 2-3, 65-73(2002).
      https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0304420302000105
      Calculations show that amount of H3O+ ions from dissolved CO2 is about 2% of carbonate ions existing in seawater and ~1/4% of bicarbonate ions.
      It should also be said that the main buffer in seawater is carbonate-bicarbonate system, and alkalinity of seawater is explained by hydrolysis reactions:
      CO3– + H2O –> HCO3- + OH-
      HCO3- + H2O –> H2CO3 + OH
      In addition to carbonates, the buffer effect in seawater if manifested by borates and silicates.

  19. We have reached the point where almost every new investigation into the Climate further weakens the CAGW Fairy Story and points the way back to the drawing board for Alarmists. However the amounts of money flowing are still too great for them to resist the Siren Call. Their income depends on continuing the Story of the Thousand and One Climate Nights.

    • @ ntesdorf
      “Their income depends on continuing the Story of the Thousand and One Climate Nights.”
      Well said!

  20. Planet is cooling down (or warming up) from 288.31K to 288.28K … how could anybody take this seriously…

  21. It takes an alkali to sequester CO₂ as bicarbonate. Dissolved carbonate can do it, but there isn’t really enough, and the reaction can reverse. The end base is CaCO₃ in rocks and deposits at the bottom, but in open ocean, that is a long way away. I expect the effect noted here is because in shallow water the CaCO₃ is more accessible. That includes, of course, CaCO₃ in shells.

    • You have it all upside down, as usual.
      CaCO3 (chalk) is not the reactant that neutralize CO2, it is one of the end products.
      Ca is one of the most common element on Earth, and many rocks may provide necessary Ca++ ion through chemical weathering.

  22. How does the greenhouse effect work in the oceans? Isn’t it true that most of the sunlight striking earth is absorbed by the ocean?

      • Since so much of sun’s energy goes into the oceans due to the large surface area of the oceans and their low albedo, I am asking how carbon dioxide dissolved in seawater works (if at all) to backscatter and slow movement of heat in oceans. I would guess that water, being condensed matter, slows motion of heat very substantially compared to dissolved gasses. Also – since Trenberth is now saying that missing heat is in the oceans I also am asking what kind of simple model in addition to the much discussed “greenhouse” is needed to understand the possibilities and probabilities of climate change in the warming direction. It seems that the extreme cold of the ocean abyss points to significant processes that are occurring that may be unaccounted for. I’m not sure one can say that the ocean is just a non variable in understanding so-called “surface” temperature of earth.

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