"When we ran the model without the climate feedback mechanisms, the Pacific Ocean held more carbon dioxide for a longer time," Cao said. "When we added the feedback mechanisms, however, the retention time in the Atlantic Ocean proved far superior. Injecting carbon dioxide into the Atlantic Ocean would be more effective than injecting it at the same depth in either the Pacific Ocean or the Indian Ocean."
Future climate change could affect both the uptake of carbon dioxide in the ocean basins and the ocean circulation patterns themselves, Jain said. As sea-surface temperatures increase, the density of the water decreases and thus slows the ocean thermohaline circulation, so the ocean's ability to absorb carbon dioxide also decreases. This leaves more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, exacerbating the problem.
"At the same time, the reduced ocean circulation will decrease the ocean mixing, which decreases the ventilation to the atmosphere of carbon injected into the deep ocean," Jain said. "Our model results show that this effect is more dramatic in the Atlantic Ocean."
Sequestering carbon in the deep ocean is not a permanent solution for reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the researchers report. "Carbon dioxide dumped in the oceans won't stay there forever," Jain said. "Eventually it will percolate to the surface and into the atmosphere."