Virginia Key, Fla. -- Scientists have revealed an important discovery that raises doubts concerning the viability of plans to fertilize the ocean to solve global warming, a projected $100 billion venture.
Research performed at Stanford and Oregon State Universities, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, suggests that ocean fertilization may not be an effective method of reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, a major contributor to global warming. Ocean fertilization, the process of adding iron or other nutrients to the ocean to cause large algal blooms, has been proposed as a possible solution to global warming because the growing algae absorb carbon dioxide as they grow.
However, this process, which is analogous to adding fertilizer to a lawn to help the grass grow, only reduces carbon dioxide in the atmosphere if the carbon incorporated into the algae sinks to deeper waters. This process, which scientists call the Biological Pump, has been thought to be dependent on the abundance of algae in the top layers of the ocean. The more algae in a bloom, the more carbon is transported, or pumped, from the atmosphere to the deep ocean.
To test this theory, researchers compared the abundance of algae in the surface waters of the worlds oceans with the amount of carbon actually sinking to deep water. They found clear seasonal patterns in both algal abundance and carbon sinking rates. However, the relationship between the two was surprising: less carbon was transported to deep water during a summertime bloom than during the rest of the year. This analysis has never been done before and required designing specialized mathematical algorithms.
By jumping a mathematical hurdle we found a new globally synchronous signal, said Dr. Lutz.
This discovery is very surprising, said lead author Dr. Michael Lutz, now at the University of Miamis Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. If, during natural plankto
|Contact: Barbra Gonzalez|
University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science