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Large CO2 release speeds up ice age melting
Date:8/26/2010

release occurred but the ocean pathway by which it escaped.

"In this case, the absence of a signal is telling us something important," Guilderson said. "Deeper waters substantially depleted in carbon-14 were drawn to the upper layers and this is the main source of the CO₂ during deglaciation. Data suggests that the upwelling of this water occurred in the Southern Ocean, near Antarctica. In our cores off New Zealand, which lie in the path of waters which 'turn over' in the Southern Ocean, we don't find anomalously low carbon-14/12 ratios. This implies that either water which upwelled in the Southern Ocean, after 16,500 years ago, had a vigorous exchange with the atmosphere, allowing its 14C-clock to be reset, or the circulation was significantly different than what the current paradigm is. If the paradigm is wrong, then during the glacial and deglaciation, the North Pacific is much more important than we give it credit for," Guilderson said.

The large CO₂ release sped up the melting, he said.

As for CO₂ emissions contributing to recent global warming, Guilderson said the CO2 release from the last ice age is not relevant.

"We can radiocarbon date the CO₂ in the atmosphere now and what we've found is that the isotopic signature indicates that it is really due to the use of fossil fuels," he said.

The average lifetime of CO₂ in the atmosphere is on the order of 70-100 years.


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Contact: Anne Stark
stark8@llnl.gov
925-422-9799
DOE/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert

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