Graham Lloyd, the Australian‘s Environment Editor, has a fascinating piece in Friday’s paper about the Southern Ocean’s renewed ability to absorb increased amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
It wasn’t long ago that environmentalists were alleging that the Southern Ocean was “full” of CO2 because of wicked humans!
Of course the ABC is running with comments that this may “come at a cost to marine life” with the increased CO2 leading to increased ocean “acidity” that may harm the development of sea animal shells and skeletons.
Here is an example of an article from 2009 which talks about oceans becoming less able to absorb CO2, blaming human CO2 emissions. Interestingly, this article claims that the increases in CO2 had already led to greater acidity which was the reason why less CO2 could be absorbed. So in 2009 more acidity was being blamed for preventing more CO2 absorption in the oceans but in 2015 more CO2 is being blamed for more acidity.
Here is another article from the Guardian in 2007 with a classic quote from the University of East Anglia (yes, the “Climategate” University of East Anglia) “This is the first time that we’ve been able to say that climate change itself is responsible for the saturation of the Southern Ocean sink.”
So what has changed? Apparently this new study has been doing more “observing” rather that “modelling” with lead study author Nicolas Gruber quoted in the Guardian saying that:
The models don’t do a particularly good job in modelling the Southern Ocean so I would say this is much much stronger evidence. It is crucial that we continue to make these observations and analyse them to detect further changes in the uptake.
Professor Gruber was quoted on the University of East Anglia’s own website as saying that measuring ocean CO2 concentrations “is particularly important since current models are not able to reproduce the observed variations.”
But for those genuinely worried about all of this acid, another professor quoted in the same article said that;
This extra carbon is unlikely to pose a large threat to life through ocean acidification. Most of the carbon taken up in the Southern Ocean is transported shortly afterwards to the deep ocean, where fewer organisms live.
While FreedomWatch is not going to make any future predictions based on the one published study, the fact that this result appears to have taken people by surprise does highlight how little we know about the role of the sun, wind, clouds, water vapour and oceans in temperature variations – or of the ability of the Earth to “adapt” to changes.
Let’s hope that more scientists do more observing and less modelling.