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Deep ocean current may slow due to climate change, Penn research finds
Date:3/21/2014

he phytoplankton take up carbon, which is then passed down through the deep ocean layers as these organisms and the organisms that eat them die and decompose. If it were not for this process, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels would be about 200 parts per million higher than the currently observed 400 ppm.

The Penn-led team considered how wind, temperature and salinity may change during the 21st century and how these phenomena affect the natural ability of the ocean to store carbon.

Running climate simulations into the future, their findings suggest that the phytoplankton-driven biological carbon pump will strengthen, leading to increased carbon storage in the ocean. Yet this effect is not enough to outweigh the fact that a warmer ocean will not be able to hold onto as much carbon dioxide gas.

"Gases are more soluble in colder liquids," Marinov said. "With climate change we predict that the ocean will lose some of its deep, natural carbon in the future, partly because the temperature warming effect is so strong."

Looking ahead, Marinov plans to add to this complex picture of the ocean's role in climate change. She will participate in an effort to increase sampling from remote parts of the Southern Ocean, blending physical, biological and chemical analyses with further modeling.

"More and more, people interested in ocean and climate sciences must also be interested in interdisciplinarity, in linking physics, biology, chemistry in the global climate context," she said.


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Contact: Katherine Unger Baillie
kbaillie@upenn.edu
215-898-9194
University of Pennsylvania
Source:Eurekalert  

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