Ocean carbon uptake widely underestimated


Research News

The world’s oceans soak up more carbon than most scientific models suggest, according to new research.

Previous estimates of the movement of carbon (known as “flux”) between the atmosphere and oceans have not accounted for temperature differences at the water’s surface and a few metres below.

The new study, led by the University of Exeter, includes this – and finds significantly higher net flux of carbon into the oceans.

It calculates CO2 fluxes from 1992 to 2018, finding up to twice as much net flux in certain times and locations, compared to uncorrected models.

“Half of the carbon dioxide we emit doesn’t stay in the atmosphere but is taken up by the oceans and land vegetation ‘sinks’,” said Professor Andrew Watson, of Exeter’s Global Systems Institute.

“Researchers have assembled a large database of near-surface carbon dioxide measurements – the “Surface Ocean Carbon Atlas” (http://www.socat.info) – that can be used to calculate the flux of CO2 from the atmosphere into the ocean.

“Previous studies that have done this have, however, ignored small temperature differences between the surface of the ocean and the depth of a few metres where the measurements are made.

“Those differences are important because carbon dioxide solubility depends very strongly on temperature.

“We used satellite data to correct for these temperature differences, and when we do that it makes a big difference – we get a substantially larger flux going into the ocean.

“The difference in ocean uptake we calculate amounts to about 10 per cent of global fossil fuel emissions.”

Dr Jamie Shutler, of the Centre for Geography and Environmental Science on Exeter’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall, added: “Our revised estimate agrees much better than previously with an independent method of calculating how much carbon dioxide is being taken up by the ocean.

“That method makes use of a global ocean survey by research ships over decades, to calculate how the inventory of carbon in the ocean has increased.

“These two ‘big data’ estimates of the ocean sink for CO2 now agree pretty well, which gives us added confidence in them.”


The authors of the paper include scientists from Herriot-Watt University, the University of the Highlands and Islands, and from the Max Planck Institute in Germany .

Funders of the study included the Royal Society, the Natural Environment Research Council and the European Space Agency.

The paper, published in Nature Communications, is entitled: “Revised estimates of ocean-atmosphere CO2 flux are consistent with ocean carbon inventory.”

From EurekAlert!

HT/Latitude and Yooper

114 thoughts on “Ocean carbon uptake widely underestimated

  1. But, I thought the ‘Science’ was settled. Isn’t it? How dare these heretics publish anything that upsets the Warmunista Orthodoxy.

    • “Half of the carbon dioxide we emit doesn’t stay in the atmosphere but is taken up by the oceans and land vegetation ‘sinks’,” said Professor Andrew Watson, of Exeter’s Global Systems Institute.

      This is so obviously wrong, how can a reporter or any science magazine let this man get away with that?
      CO2 does not stop to do its thing when a magic 50% anthropogenic level is reached. This is just another study showing that if mankind decides to change the CO2 production rate if any problem shows up, it will only take a few decades to remove a big part (much more than 50%) of the CO2 from the atmosphere without any extra effort.
      May I add that the oceans are not acidifying, but there is only a small effect at the sea surface! (e.g. the CO2 partial pressure in the atmosphere is rising, but the CO2 concentration in the oceans is not, so the sequestering rate only increases)

      • I’m not sure why you think that particular statement is so wrong. The ocean has indeed been taking up about half of mankind’s CO2 – the ballpark calcs are pretty straightforward – and this study looks at it in a little more detail and finds that ocean CO2 uptake has been underestimated. So their findings provide more support for your statements that “it will only take a few decades to remove a big part (much more than 50%) of the CO2 from the atmosphere without any extra effort” and “there is only a small effect at the sea surface [..] so the sequestering rate only increases”.

        It does follow that over time the oceans will remove almost all of man-made CO2, not just half, and maybe this is where your objection lies??

        • They “got” the science upside/down.

          With ever stronger voices describing the ever changing temperature- and salinity based Total Alkalinity equilibrium where CO2 is but a tiny fraction and in constant flux with the atmosphere…

          The lower temperatures below the surface layer can off course hold more CO2 than the higher temperatures of said surface layer.

          The ocean getting warmer MUST release CO2 to maintain the Alkalinity equilibrium, it is not the colder waters just below the surface that picks up more CO2.

          This nonsense science is all about turning oldschool Henry and Dalton on it’s head to promote CO2 acidification and climate alarmism promotions.

          That upside/down position is an attempt in quieting Dalton, Henry.


      • The 50% value seems an overestimate to me.

        We know how much CO2 is produced by mankind each year: about 35 gigatonnes. That equates to about 8E14 moles.
        We know from measurements at Mauna Loa and elsewhere that the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is increasing at a rate of about 2.5 ppmv per annum.
        We also know that the total amount of gas in the atmosphere is about 6.5E18 kg or 2.25E20 moles.
        So 2.5ppmv of that is is 5.625E14 moles.
        So approximately 5.625 moles out of every 8 moles of CO2 produced by mankind, stay in the atmosphere.

        That means about 70% of our CO2 emissions stay in the atmosphere and 30% go elsewhere. Some of that 30% will be absorbed by plants in the form of increased growth-rates. The rest will be absorbed by the oceans. That is not 50%.

        • CORRECTION

          The total amount of gas in the atmosphere is about 5E18 kg or 1.74E20 moles.
          So 2.5ppmv of that is 4.34E14 moles.
          That means about 54% of our CO2 emissions stay in the atmosphere.

          So that means that at most 46% will end up in the oceans. But we also know that high CO2 concentrations boost plant growth-rates so even 46% is an overestimate.

  2. I tire of the grammatically and epistemologically inaccurate “carbon” being substituted for “carbon dioxide.”

    • I agree with you John. I just make the reasonable assumption that anybody who refers to carbon when they mean carbon dioxide is not a scientist and can therefore be ignored. I think that accounts for most politicians and journalists.

      • Jeff, I think you also can assume that anyone who says carbon when they mean CO2 does so deliberately to invoke images of nasty black soot etc. rather than a harmless and beneficial trace gas.

      • I’m with you, Jeff. 🙂

        I have the same feeling when Human-caused Climate Change is called Climate Change.

        There is a difference, in both cases.

    • It would be more incorrect to say carbon dioxide. When CO2 enters the ocean at present pH, it converts to about 90% bicarbonate ions, 9% carbonate ions and only 1% CO2. So the scientific literature refers tothe sum of those molecules as DIC – Dissolved INORGANIC Carbon. Inorganic carbon molecules basically consist of a single carbon atom. CO2 that enters the food web via photosynthesis is incorporated into ORGANIC carbon molecules such as carbohydrates and protein. That is broken down into Dissolved ORGANIC Carbon and Particulate ORGANIC carbon.

      • While all that is true, the use of “carbon” as shorthand for the issue of describing the products of using Carbon-based fuel is well established, and won’t be changed – – much to the disgust of those up-thread.

        This is very like saying “social” distance when “physical” distance measured in feet or meters is intended. Similarly, wearing masks seems to be mostly a “social” accommodation rather than actually stopping the physical spread of the tiny thing that a virus is. [I don’t intend to start a mask/no-mask argument. Don’t go that direction, anyone.]
        Words mean what people want them to mean; until they don’t.

      • I appreciate your breakdown of the ionic form that CO2 takes in the ocean, it’s interesting new information to me. However, it would still be much better to refer to the CO2 in the air as CO2, because that’s what that *is* — and, in water, if the dissolved inorganic carbon got referred to as dissolved CO2, that would still be more informative than just saying there’s some “carbon” dissolved there.

        I’ve noticed that the lazy approach of just ‘talking down’ an element as such applies to dietary comments on salt intake quite a lot. Did you ever hear people go on about how they want less “sodium” in their diet? If you had to worry about just an intake of sodium, you’d be in trouble, that’s a poisonous metal you’ve got there! Of course, if you are talking table salt, you are talking about getting sodium *ions*, those positively charged Na+ things into your bloodstream? But you can’t really just be taking *those* in either, right, they have to be balanced with the corresponding negative chlorines, or, if not, man, you would give off such a spark ..

          • First Chem Lab:
            A) Drop a bit of calcium in beaker of water. Observe bubbles forming on sunken piece.
            B) Drop a bit of sodium in a beaker of water. Observe yellow flashes as the metal skitters on the water’s surface.
            C) Drop a bit of potassium in a beaker of water. Observe bright purple flash as it disappears.

            (note: if you use 50ml of water in your 500ml beaker, you will also learn about the LEL of H2 in air and how to deafen your lab partner.)

          • During my first biology lab, in the seventh grade, we had microscopes on the tables in front of us connected by electical extension cords, and on a dare from my cousin who was also a member of that class, and sat right next to me, I dropped a penny on a half-open extension cord.

            That was pretty spectacular, too! A very bright flash before everything went dark. You should have seen the look in my teacher’s eyes! 🙂

            My action knocked out all the elctricity in the entire school.

            The school principal, coincidentally named Mr. Abbott (no relation), came and got me the next hour from my gym class and I got into a lot of trouble. About five licks with a wooden paddle, as I recall. Ouch! And I was in gym shorts at the time.

      • There is no such thing as “organic carbon molecules”, there are however organic molecules, which are always partially carbon, the rest being mostly hydogen, oxygen and nitrogen, but almost all other elements may be found in smaller quantities in organic molecules, iron in hemoglobine being a well-known example.

        And there are several organic molecules with just one carbon atom, methanol and formic acid for example. And there are inorganic molecules with several carbon atoms, such as fullerenes.

      • Jim Steele, All true but you don’t mention carbonic acid or the increased rate of change of CO2 addition. Ocean pH is obviously increasing, but it seems incredibly unlikely that doubling the CO2 in the atmosphere over the next 100 years can have any meaningful effect on ocean pH. I’ve flown a few times across the small by comparison Atlantic Ocean vs the Pacific. Pretty hard for humans to have any effect on that volume! My disagreements with alarmist/warmists is their emphasis on qualitative to the near exclusion of quantitative measures. I look forward to additional thought provoking comments from you.

        • David: I agree atmospheric CO2 should be referred to as CO2 separate from for example black carbon. Worse I have read papers that calculate the total weight of carbon as the sum of just those atoms where others calculated the total weight of carbon as the sum of CO2 weights.

          Dennis: Carbonic acid and CO2 convert between each form extremely rapidly and many chemists simply refer to the two species as aqueous CO2. I am curious about your evidence that “Ocean pH is obviously increasing”. The biological pump could prevent any acidification. Because all photosynthesizing plankton need CO2 to make sugars, and CO2 is only 1%, plankton use the enzyme carbonic anhydrase to convert bicarbonate ions back to CO2.

          tty: You are correct but I was not trying to offer a precise definition of organic vs inorganic molecules and all the exceptions. Given the context of the oceans, I didn’t think diving into the weeds was needed. The definitions have evolved over the decades. The more recent working definitions have been:

          1) molecules with no Carbon-Hydrogen bonds are inorganic molecules and

          2) molecules with at least one Carbon-Hydrogen bond are considered organic.

          • Jim Steele, thank you for your prompt response. Sorry my stupid mistake, I meant the ocean has become less alkaline because of an increase in H ion concentration, reacting in the acidic direction. My understanding is that this is from CO2 reacting in the ocean to form Carbonic acid. Reading your comment I get the impression that other factors act to maintain an equilibrium. Are you saying a doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere will not have any effect on ocean pH? Not even at some thin measure at the surface?
            National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
            U.S. Department of Commerce
            Search NOAA sites
            Home Education Resource collections Ocean & coasts
            Ocean acidification
            In the 200-plus years since the industrial revolution began, the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere has increased due to human actions. During this time, the pH of surface ocean waters has fallen by 0.1 pH units.

          • Dennis,

            The concept of pH was not developed until the early 1900s by beer makers and it has not been measured in the ocean for more than 50 years. The claim pH fell by 0.1 for 200 years is the result of models that do not consider the biological impacts and simply model the effect of higher atmospheric concentrations assuming an equilibrium develops. Models use biologically inert tracers like CFCs to show CO2 is diffusing into the surface waters and slowly diffusing to depth. But CO2 enters the food web and is taken from the surface to depth in a matter of hours and days.

            Ocean upwelling of DIC rich waters and the biological pump have a far greater impact on surface pH. Photosynthesis and respiration likewise have a major effect.The pH in coral reefs has been measured to vary between 8.6 during summer days and 7.8 during winter nights.

            Your comment is disingenuous. I never said “a doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere will not have any effect on ocean pH?” I am saying there are several factors that counteract the atmospheric effect making the change in ocean surface pH not so “obvious” as you claimed.

          • Not sure if that is the correct version of sugar and conversion will also go towards building shells and flesh, 6H+ + 6HCO3- (or if you will 6H2CO3) -> C6H12O6 + 6O?


          • Jim, your definition of organic compounds is at variance with my understanding, which was that an organic compound was one that contains at least one C-C or C-H bond. Many years ago (early ’70s) when I studied for a chemistry degree, I recall a tutorial where the lecturer asked that very question, no one got the right answer, and unfortunately he didn’t tell us – ‘go and find out!’ In those pre-internet days, it was years before I came across the definition I have given above, and unfortunately I do not recall where it came from. Thinking about it now, I realise that I am not certain if the exact wording was ‘compound’ or ‘substance’, if the latter then fullerenes and in fact all other allotropes of carbon would be inorganic but if the former then they would be organic. Your definition would exclude such compounds as oxalic acid, tetrafluoroethylene etc. from being organic that I would instinctively consider as such. Before posting, I thought I would check (for the first time in forty years!) the official IUPAC definition and was surprised to find that they don’t have one, so I don’t know where either of our definitions originate!

          • Jim Turner,

            As I said the definitions have evolved over the decades, and to argue over a precise definition and all the exceptions is likely why there is no official IUPAC definition. As in many scientific disciplines, different researchers create their own definitions to best fit their research. I gave a working definition based on what some chemists tell me

          • Jim
            You said, “… there are several factors that counteract the atmospheric effect making the change in ocean surface pH not so ‘obvious’ … ” Besides the “biological pump” there are the fundamental (bi)carbonate and borate chemical buffering actions.

      • “So the scientific literature refers to the sum of those molecules as DIC – Dissolved INORGANIC Carbon.”
        While technically correct, this is not easily understood by most people. And yet, it is also technically correct to call it dissolved CO2 since in the process of heating the ocean, CO2 is released in a reversible process. Just like salt does not all remain as NaCl molecule in the ocean but some dissociates into sodium ions and chlorine ions. But we don’t call the dissociated salt anything other than dissolved salt.
        So, for the purpose of clarity, in which calling CO2 as simply carbon is not, calling CO2 absorbed into the ocean simply CO2 is both technically correct and easy to understand.

  3. I know little about ocean ecology- but just curious.

    If there is more CO2 in the ocean- I’d presume that might increase productivity of plankton. And as the plankton is the base of the ocean ecology (??)- there will be more of the creatures that feed on it. That should result eventually in more dead biomass sinking to the bottom and thus burying the carbon in sediments. (??) So, the potential for the ocean to be a better carbon sink may improve? I don’t know- just asking.

    In what other ways will more CO2 in the oceans effect ocean ecology? I presume nobody knows for sure. No doubt alarmists will assume it’ll all be negative. Most likely, there will be some negatives and some positives- like everything else.

    • Mostly you need 2 more things to make that work….phosphorus and iron
      …that usually limits production

          • Scientific American is still very good when it has articles on astronomy and some other topics but it’s climate stories are simple minded, IMHO. Its stories on social issues are also lefty bullshit.

          • Joseph – I quit buying the Scientific American rag because of the climate / weather & GLOBULL warming articles that I felt were, as you phrased it, ” lefty bullshit “.
            Too bad since it was a magazine I treasured in the early ’70’s as a starving geology student who could rarely afford to buy a copy.
            One of my best memories of SA was a roommate coming to my room with an issue he had bought to pass it on and pointing to an ad for a 1975 Jag and saying that is what he was going to buy when he graduated and finally had some $$$$.

        • So, that is the reason that we banned the use of cleaners and dishwasher soap that had phosphate in it?

        • Seeding the Pacific with iron leads to larger salmon runs. This was discovered by correlating salmon runs with ash deposited from volcanoes. It has been tested by researchers as well. Other people have disparaged the idea because it does not remove a lot of CO2 from the atmosphere, but the original idea was to increase the salmon rather than reduce CO2.

    • There is also an inorganic chemical reaction that removes both carbon dioxide and calcium from the ocean. This is the same reaction that produces boiler scale and is the reaction that produces limestone, etc. at the bottom of the ocean in areas where there is poor organic production. The reaction occurs at 86F which is also the temperature most noble gases cannot remain in solution. This is the thing you witness when you boil water and is call the first boil.

    • There’s actually orders of magnitude in the sea. As it transitions through the various biological processes, most of it falls to the ocean depths, where there are (from memory) 30 million GTC in the sediment.

  4. I have always felt that I was the only one who was paying attention when in 3rd grade we learned how to make soda. I asked questions like why do we make the water cold first?

    I think most people never learn these things in their lifetime. Cognitive dissonance makes sure of that.

    Scary to think what they aren’t teaching to kids these days.

    Evaluate that as the limit of who understands approaches 0.

  5. When the satellite era was starting there was some logical skepticism about their value to oceanography because of measuring technology lacking much penetration ability. Its value was oversold, nothing as crazy as now however, best as I remember. Have been to a few older carbon cycle (lots of elements involved) seminars since, one of the last stuck in the hockey stick, didn’t want to mess with it or understand it. Nothing suffices spending time actually measuring the oceans in situ. One of the later research trips I took had a small computer fire. Too much electricity stuck in an old ship.

    • “a small computer fire” That wasn’t a fire … you overworked the Jinni inside, and he let out the magick smoke.

      I know about these things. In a previous life, testing the limits of the Jinni inside was my job at Intel.

      Take these parts, crank up the temperature and voltage enough to cause the Jinni to release the magick smoke, write a report on the temperature and voltage conditions.

      Now I are a Deep Water Sedimentologist.

  6. That after all these years of preaching AGW climate change science they are still trying to figure out what the carbon cycle flows are means that they don’t really know carbon cycle flows and still don’t know whether atmospheric composition is responsive to fossil fuel emissions and if so what that relationship is exactly. At the bottom of the resurrection of fundamental relationships in a science that is claimed to have been settled for decades is the uncertainty in carbon cycle flows that are an order of magnitude larger than fossil fuel emissions and that cannot be directly measured and have to be inferred with large uncertainties. Under these uncertainties, it is not possible to determine exactly what role if any fossil fuel emissions have in determining atmospheric CO2 concentration.

    Three links below:




    Bottom line: without empirical evidence of the impact of fossil fuel emissions on atmospheric composition, the case for AGW falls apart. The only thing they have to fall back on is the TCRE but that also derives from statistics errors such that when these errors are corrected, no TCRE remains.

    Two TCRE links below



  7. There is a reason why the most productive fishing areas are in the more northern oceans and not by the equator – more CO2 in the colder water, therefore more plant growth, more fish food, more fish. Also keep in mind all those CO2 emitting undersea volcanos, mostly the result of plate tectonics, which for millions of years have been putting CO2 into that cold, deep water, under even more pressure than that can of soda.

    Fortunately, all the salt in the ocean effectively counteracts the acid-producing combination of CO2 plus H2O.

      • I never thought of that. Is that true?

        I prefer Maine over Florida lobsters certainly, but I like plenty o’ warm water fishies.

      • UK waters are seeing more and more ‘warm water’ fish and some fish species are clearly moving their range north, due to warming ocean

        • “due to warming ocean”

          Which CANNOT be caused by humans but is a purely natural effect of the series of strong solar cycles and the drop in cloud cover over the tropical oceans.


          Wonder what the fish thought of the much warmer ocean temperatures for the first 80% or so of the Holocene.

        • Griff,
          British fishermen found cold water varieties of fish were harder to locate during the 1920-late 1930s as they had moved further north, herrings, cod and the like appeared to be dwindling. However tuna and the warmer water fish had encroached into the British waters.
          UK blue fin tuna fishing began in 1929, and much of the early fishing occurred off the coast of Scarborough, Whitby, and Flamborough.
          see http://www.yorkshirefilmarchive.com/film/tunny-action , further south many fish that were considered Mediterranean were being landed.
          Then in the the 1960s the cold water fish were back with avengence with some of the largest landings ever of herrings, cod, etc., occurred.
          Warm water fish turning up in British waters is NOT unusual there are plenty of records of it occurring in the past. It is cyclic and probably dependent on Atlantic Ocean cycle more than anything. see https://academic.oup.com/icesjms/article/69/7/1289/745283
          Try harder and search for it! (Google and DuckDuckGo are your friends!)

          • TomO… you seem to be suggesting that there was a significant COOLING trend from 1940 to1960 +..

            How dare you suggest such a thing 😉

            You will tweak griff’s climate change denial.

  8. Serious question, as I’ve never understood the mass balance arguments – if the ocean can absorb 50% of emissions now, why couldn’t it absorb 100% of the considerably lesser amount of emissions in, for example, the early years of the Keeling curve, and further? Was this a kinetic phenomenon?

      • No, I believe the Keeling curve data, and the emissions data, so I don’t believe that this is the usual fraudulent and pathetically bad climate “science” from the Merchants of Sh!te. Serious question still stands.

    • Because absorption is proportional to concentration gradient, the higher the waterlevel in your coffee filter, the faster the water runs through the filter. (Darcys law of fluid flow, or Ohm’s law)

    • “Was this a kinetic phenomenon?”

      No, not really. It is an equilibrium problem. The solubility is governed by the partial pressure of the CO2 in the atmosphere, which is to say the concentration. As the concentration would decrease, the total amount going into the ocean would decrease.
      As a *first approximation*, consider that the ratio of CO2 in air vs. CO2 in water stays approximately the same.

      Second issue:
      They write:
      “accounted for temperature differences at the water’s surface and a few metres below.”
      The CO2 sinks are the polar and sub-polar oceans. Always rough, mostly stormy, the most violent seas on the planet. Well mixed? More like well churned. I wonder what temperature difference they are modelling.
      {Note that temperatures in these waters have to be modeled. All attempts by Climate Scientists to collect actual data ended in the same way. The researchers got so seasick they turned green and then jumped overboard to stop the misery. It was tragic, a terrible outcome.}

      • TonyL,
        “The solubility is governed by the partial pressure of the CO2 in the atmosphere, which is to say the concentration. As the concentration would decrease, the total amount going into the ocean would decrease.
        As a *first approximation*, consider that the ratio of CO2 in air vs. CO2 in water stays approximately the same.”

        Yes and that is why it is utterly mad to believe that Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) could possibly work! The more CO2 is stored away the greater the partial pressure of the CO2 imbalance between oceans and atmosphere thus the more the oceans will vent CO2 to the atmosphere to regain the balance.
        CCS is just junk, UN-IPCC cronies’ idea to shaft everyone for more money!
        More UN shÿster greed!

          • Hans Erren,

            But that only works at depth and is temperature dependent.
            From your link,

            The exact value of the CCD depends on the solubility of calcium carbonate which is determined by temperature, pressure and the chemical composition of the water – in particular the amount of dissolved CO2 in the water. Calcium carbonate is more soluble at lower temperatures and at higher pressures. It is also more soluble if the concentration of dissolved CO2 is higher. Adding a reactant to the above chemical equation pushes the equilibrium towards the right producing more products: Ca2+ and HCO3−, and consuming more reactants CO2 and calcium carbonate according to Le Chatelier’s principle.

            At the present time the CCD in the Pacific Ocean is about 4200–4500 metres except beneath the equatorial upwelling zone, where the CCD is about 5000 m. In the temperate and tropical Atlantic Ocean the CCD is at approximately 5000m.”

            So instead of messing about with deep waters consider the *volume* of ocean that is within the first 4500 meters or so. Not significant, eh?

    • The truth is that the cold polar ocean waters absorb nearly all of naturally and fossil fuel emitted CO2 that reaches it. In addition, cold rain drops in clouds absorb CO2. In the tropics this cold rain delivers CO2 back to the oceans surface on a nearly daily basis. Thus, the very thin surface layer of water will be colder and contain more carbon dioxide. Also, when the sun warms this surface water during the day, it evaporates water. Evaporation is an endothermic process that cools the surface as well as releases CO2 back into the atmosphere. The net daily flux of CO2 in the tropics is nearly always from water to air. Google “Climate Changes” and go to my wordpress website for a more detailed analysis.

    • So by Henry’s law, if there is 40% more CO2 in the air above the water, then the water can hold 40% more dissolved CO2 than its previous equilibrium amount ( and the ocean can hold a lot). However oceans are much more complex than laboratory flasks, and much more is dissolving and precipitating so Henry’s law is only approximate….

      • Quite so, DMK,
        There is some difference in Henry’s Law constants determined over well-stirred water in the lab, versus the ocean that is often temperature stratified as to temperature as well as composition. Geoff S

  9. The difference in ocean uptake we calculate amounts to about 10 per cent of global fossil fuel emissions.

    That leaves plenty of space for anthropogenic CO2 to cause catastrophic global warming. Otherwise, they might have had trouble getting their results published.

    Orthodoxy doesn’t get smacked down suddenly. It gets nibbled away at. Eventually, it collapses as a result of foundation failure.

    • We haven’t seen really big CO2 belching volcanoes in quite a while. In fact, it’s been anomalously quiet for quite some time. Maybe it has to do with the multi-decades of high solar activity we have just gone through keeping the cosmic rays down. But with a weak cycle 24, three years of a really quiet Sun and another quiet cycle anticipated followed by even more quietness, it might catch up to us.

    • It doesn’t seem reasonable that there should be does it?

      Evolutionary theory today regards growth and expansion as fundamental to survival and built into DNA. Even in a greenhouse, plants can be harvested and removed making way for more. Productivity increases monotonically to well over a thousand ppm of CO2.

      The earth has plenty of space for additional growth and all kinds of room for deposition. CO2 is the basic building block of all life. All things being equal, more is better.

  10. Let’s just take a minute to absorb what this article is claiming: despite the IPCC assembling and comparing (per CMIP1-6) the best global climate models—or so they claim—over some 30-plus years, all of these modelers were unaware that “carbon dioxide solubility depends very strongly on temperature” and therefore had not “accounted for temperature differences at the water’s surface and a few metres below.”

    And this despite the fact that the IPCC claims their assessment reports are peer reviewed by the most notable scientists working in the field of “climate”.


    • all of these modelers were unaware that “carbon dioxide solubility depends very strongly on temperature”

      For a better handle on CO2, Henry’s law etc they should try working in a Quality lab in a brewery. I did many moons ago.

      Knowing stuff like that isn’t a luxury. Not when product and money are at stake.

  11. Maybe it’s because it’s 2:00am when I’m reading this, and I’m feeling stupid, but I can’t get my brain around the implications of this article.

    The climate alarmists are concerned with the (slow) increase in carbon dioxide in the air.
    OK, so more carbon dioxide is being absorbed by the ocean than had been expected.
    But – other than tidying up some of the mathematics – how do the findings ruin the alarmists arguments?

    The alarmists are still concerned about increasing CO2 in the THE ATMOSPHERE; moaning about “400ppm and rising”. These findings are not going to stop them doing that, surely. Or am I missing something?

  12. I saw this yesterday in the UK Daily Mail., and was hoping to get enlightenment here.

    To me it was a puzzled. The solubility od a gas is inversely proportional to water temperature and proportional to partial pressure, so with increasing sea surface temperature and increasing atmospheric CO2 I was puzzled how the calculation was so far out. I assumed that CO2 dissolved at surface, perhaps only a few millimetres down . Only when it cooled could it dissolve more, presumably in the polar regions, mainly under sea ice.? I couldn’t see how more CO2 could be dissolved at lower ocean levels, other than by CO2 migrating from the surface, but a lot of the ocean has very well defined temperature zones, used by WW2 U-Boats to hide from Sonar

    Then my brain started to hurt, then I thought Ocean Acidification can be the only answer.

    So will read comments with interest

    • Water is always moving in the ocean wind causes waves that causes the surface to mix with water that is deeper down. Sunlights also causes surface water to evaporate increasing the salinity of the surface. This extra salty surface water then moves down bringing colder water to the surface. Also long term wind patterns can move large amounts of pacificwaterwest causing avery cold upwelling of sea water in south america.

      So overall surface water doesn’t stay at the surface for very long. Mixing moves it down while very cold water moves up.

      • Speaking of salt–I guess that it is really true that computer jockeys don’t have any ocean experience, beyond maybe noticing the ship disappearing below the horizon.
        “Previous studies that have done this have, however, ignored small temperature differences between the surface of the ocean and the depth of a few metres where the measurements are made. Those differences are important because carbon dioxide solubility depends very strongly on temperature. ”

        But doesn’t take much to find out a little about it as in the surface tension is presumably broken by wind as there is evidence that when such is common as shown by chlorophyll, organic matter in the air is common, otherwise salt. O’Dowd, C., et al. 2008. A combined organic-inorganic sea-spray function. Geophysical Research Letters. 35:L01801, or maybe just go to sea and watch the birds– Woodcock, A. H. 1975. Thermals over the sea and gull flight behavior. Boundary-Layer Meteorology. 9:63-68.

      • I don’t think waves cause much mixing in open seas other than during severe storms. Even then not much depth. Most ocean currents don’t do much mixing, Gulf Stream and Kuroshio transport warm water thousands of miles on the surface. Up welling cold water seems to occur in specific places. Ocean gyres are surface effects.

        So just where does large scale mixing happen?

    • Surface water is usually mixing with the water just underneath it to a meter or so down. This is due to waves and other disturbances near surface disturbances. This first meter of water mixes more slowly with the water beneath it usually due to currents and possibly shallows caused by land features.

      You then get under water rivers of water that are different in temperature and salinity moving vast amounts of water about the oceans, often from warm areas to cold areas where warm (but cooling) water sink and become cool waters, and these now cool waters flow back in deep currents to the warm areas (like the tropics).

      If the dissolved CO2 is high enough, it can be released as the ocean surface waters warm, and if the dissolved CO2 is low enough more is dissolved into the cold surface waters.

      This would seem to be in balance, but it isn’t. Dissolved CO2 (in several ionic forms) is converted to limestone or other type rock, or used by aquatic life to build shells. Much of this sinks to form new rock (eventually, it starts off as ooze) and is “stored away” for long periods of time. So CO2 is constantly being removed from the atmosphere.

      These “well defined temperature zones” are often fairly local features subject to change (over days) or can be the boundaries of underwater rivers where different waters flow past each other. U.S. WII submarines eventually carried instruments to allow the submariners to detect such layers allowing them to “hide” from sonar.

    • Ben, after being wisely schooled by Jim Steele, (see comments above), I googled his name and came up with a paper by him that more than satisfied my curiosity about ocean pH and C02.
      How NOAA and Bad Modeling Invented an “Ocean Acidification” Icon: Part 2 – Bad Models
      Anthony Watts / March 2, 2017
      Guest essay by Jim Steele
      Director emeritus Sierra Nevada Field Campus, San Francisco State University and author of Landscapes & Cycles: An Environmentalist’s Journey to Climate Skepticism

  13. This does nothing to alter the picture, because we can directly measure the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere, and find that it is rising, despite that this – and any other still-unknown mechanisms – are at work, and then one can make projections off of that as to what that will do for the climate.

    If anything, the real import of this is it means that the ocean chemistry is changing that much faster. That’s a problem in its own right *independently* of CO2’s climatic effects.

  14. Algae in fresh and salt water are plants, which existence relies on the absorption of carbon through photosynthesis. This absorption of carbon is the building block of all life in waters, fresh and salt and should be considered. Relying on the skeletal remains of plants for energy releases carbon to the atmosphere that at one time already existed.

  15. “The world’s oceans soak up more carbon than most scientific models suggest”

    Does this mean it’s more worser, or less worser?

  16. The author should not refer to ocean uptake as “flux”. That confuses it with so-called back radiation of 13-15 µm…. which sinks absolutely zero “carbon” soot or CO2 clear trace gas into ocean (or anything else).

  17. I also not that SOCAT gets it numbers from GOOS. GOOS is sponsored by the UN and WMO, and appears to incorporate the IPCC models in their analysis. Click on the ‘Climate’ red button on the left of this graphic https://www.goosocean.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=120&Itemid=277 .

    So this surface of dissolved CO2 has nothing to do with underwater volcanoes and seismically active areas warming up the water. Warm water that then rides up to the surface with its own dissolved CO2 and vents to the atmosphere when conditions are right.
    Science knows and understands more about the features of the Moon than the currents of our own planet’s oceans!
    IMO All this ‘research’ is dancing on the head of a pin when we do not fully understand the basic of the oceans, their currents, their interactions, their variables, etc.

  18. If CO2 is being removed faster by nature, then it must also be added faster by nature – because the IPCC claims that the addition and removal ov CO2 by nature remain in balance. That assumption, which is key to the IPCC’s activism, leaves only man’s emissions to upset the balance.

    So much for the IPCC’s 99.999% confidence.

  19. How did the ocean part of the carbon cycle work during the Mesozoic (250-65 million years ago) with 1000-2000 ppm CO2? The biosphere was in vibrant health on land and sea. Where was the carbon apocalypse? How were the carbon “sinks” not “overwhelmed”?

    I guess a Brontosaurus was a carbon sink.
    All these carbon cycle stories are short-sighted, fantastical and inconsistent with the evidence of palaeo-history.

    And no – the “dim sun” lower past insolation won’t play a role as recently as the Mesozoic.

  20. Charles,
    This paper is Watson et al 2020.
    As the post here notes, it is indicating that Ocean Carbon uptake is widely underestimated because of a realisation that temperature variations impact the oceans ability to absorb atmospheric CO2.
    The next issue is how this paper relates to Friedlingstein et al 2019, “ Global Carbon Budget 2019”.
    That paper is the successor to the Le Quere et al papers on the Global Carbon Budget from 2008 to 2018.
    Friedlingstein et al 2019 already noted “ (3) an apparent underestimation of the CO2 variability by ocean models outside the tropics”.
    Watson et al 2020 must reopen the entire issue of the Carbon Budget, surely.
    And the reaction by climate scientists to date…….?

  21. Jim Steele,
    Thanks again for further reducing my ignorance about pH and CO2 in the ocean. Appears that my error was confusing modeled with observed results.
    The claim pH fell by 0.1 for 200 years is the result of models that do not consider the biological impacts and simply model the effect of higher atmospheric concentrations assuming an equilibrium develops.

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