From giant whirlpools to currents 1,000 km wide, scientists said on Monday they have uncovered how vast amounts of carbon are locked away in the depths of the Southern Ocean, boosting researchers ability to detect the impact of climate change.Oceans curb the pace of climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels. The Southern Ocean is the largest of these ocean carbon sinks, soaking up about 40 percent of mankind's CO2 absorbed by the seas.
But until now, researchers were unsure what mechanisms were involved because of the remoteness and sheer size of the Southern Ocean.
"By identifying the mechanisms responsible for taking carbon out of the surface layer in the ocean, we're in a much better situation to talk about how climate change might impact that process," said oceanographer Richard Matear, one of the authors of the Southern Ocean study published in the journal Nature Geoscience.
The team of British and Australian scientists found that currents that take carbon from the surface to the depths occur at specific locations, not uniformly across the ocean as previously thought.
They found that a combination of winds, currents and whirlpools create conditions for carbon to be drawn down into the deep ocean to be locked away for decades to centuries. Some of the plunging currents were up to 1,000 km (600 miles) wide.
In other areas, currents return carbon to the atmosphere as part of a natural cycle.
But overall, the Southern Ocean is large net carbon sink, the authors say, calculating the area between 35 and 65 degrees south takes up the equivalent of 1.5 billion tonnes of CO2 a year, or more than the annual greenhouse gas emissions of Japan.
Scientists worry that a warming planet could disrupt this natural pattern by changing wind patterns and ocean currents.
Matear said by figuring how the Southern Ocean worked and using a new monitoring network of robotic ocean-going devices researchers will get a much better handle on how the seas between Australia and Antarctica are changing.
"Climate change will definitely interact with this process and modulate it," Matear, of Australia's state-funded Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, told Reuters.
Critics slam company after claims it allowed NSA to scan all users’ emails
Shenzhou-11 to take 2 astronauts into space, dock with orbiting space lab Tiangong-2 within 2 days
A German politician has said Facebook should pay for failing to remove online hate comment
For the first time in over 120 years, a design patent case will be heard by the US supreme court.
Toyota is usually associated with cars, but it has been investing millions in robotics and Kirobo is its first commercial foray into the sector.
A joint Mongolian-Japanese expedition found the giant print, which measures 106 centimetres (42 inches) long and 77 centimetres wide.
Current conditions may ‘commit Earth to an eventual total warming of 5 degrees Celsius’ in few thousand years, author says
Cyber-attack in 2014 likely the largest data breach in history
Photographs, videos, polls, quoted tweets no longer count toward 140-character limit
2.5 million phones recalled days before Apple introduces iPhone 7
Mark Zuckerberg has vowed to continue effort to provide satellite for Africa
3.7-billion-year-old rock suggests life began soon after Earth’s formation
Facebook will target advertising to Whatsapp users but will steer clear of third party advertising content
The global seed giant Monsanto is pulling its application to introduce GMO cotton seed after a row with the Indian government, which is demanding the company share its technology with local seed companies.
Proxima b could be visited by spacecraft within next 100 years
According to Space X, the rocket “will be subject to extreme velocities and re-entry heating,” and is part of an ongoing effort to reuse rocket parts