Athens, Ga. The summer of 2010 has been agonizingly hot in much of the continental U.S., and the record-setting temperatures have refocused attention on global warming. Scientists have been looking at ways the Earth might benefit from natural processes to balance the rising heat, and one process had intrigued them, a premise that melting ice at the poles might allow more open water that could absorb carbon dioxide, one of the major compounds implicating in warming.
Now, though, in research just published in the journal Science and led by a University of Georgia biogeochemist, that idea may be one more dead end. In fact, a survey of waters in the Canada Basin, which extends north of Alaska to the North Pole, shows that its value as a potential carbon dioxide "sink" may be short-lived at best and minor in terms of what the planet will need to avoid future problems.
"The Canada Basin and entire Arctic Ocean are still taking up carbon dioxide," said Wei-Jun Cai, a professor in the department of marine biology in UGA's Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and lead author of the study. "But our research shows that as the ice melts, the carbon dioxide in the water very quickly reaches equilibrium with the atmosphere, so its use as a place to store CO2 declines dramatically and quickly. We never really understood how limited these waters would be in terms of their usefulness in soaking up carbon dioxide."
The research was a joint project with the government of China. Other authors on the paper published in Science include, from the University of Georgia: graduate student Baoshan Chen, research scientist Yongchen Wang, postdoctoral associate Xinping Hu, and doctoral student Wei-Jen Huang. Colleagues from China and elsewhere who were co-authors include Liqi Chen, Zhongyong Gao, Yuanhui Zhang and Suqing Xu from the Third Institute of Oceanography of the State Ocean Administration of China; Sang Lee of the Korea Polar Institute;
|Contact: Philip Lee Williams|
University of Georgia