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Study: Typhoons bury tons of carbon in the oceans
Date:7/24/2008

ink beneath the waves during a storm. They suspended the contraption from bridges above the river as the waters raged below. At the height of the storm, they tied themselves to the bridges for safety.

They did this once every three hours, taking refuge in a nearby storm shelter in between.

Four days later, after the storm had passed, they filtered the water from the bottles and analyzed the sediments for particulate organic carbon. Then they measured the amount of silica in the remaining water sample in order to calculate the amount of weathering occurring with the storm.

Because they know that two carbon molecules are required to weather one molecule of silica, they could then calculate how much carbon washed out to sea. Carey and Goldsmith did those calculations with study coauthor Berry Lyons, professor of earth sciences at Ohio State.

Carey cautioned that this is the first study of its kind, and more data are needed to put the Mindulle numbers into a long-term perspective. She and Goldsmith are still analyzing the data from Typhoon Haitang, which struck when the two of them happened to be in Taiwan in 2005, so it's too early to say how much carbon runoff occurred during that storm.

"But with two to four typhoons happening in Taiwan per year, it's not unreasonable to think that the amount of carbon sequestered during these storms could be comparable to the long-term annual carbon flux for the country," she said.

The findings could be useful to scientists who model global climate change, Goldsmith said. He pointed to other studies that suggest that mountainous islands such as Taiwan, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea produce one third of all the sediments that enter the world oceans annually.

As scientists calculate Earth's carbon "budget" -- how much carbon is being added to the atmosphere and how much is being taken away -- they need to know how much is being buried in the oceans.

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Contact: Anne Carey
Carey.145@osu.edu
614-292-2375
Ohio State University
Source:Eurekalert

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