In a study performed at the University of East Anglia, Britain, researchers determined the world's oceans' ability to function as a sink for atmospheric carbon dioxide' is slowly declining. The world's oceans absorb a great amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) that has been released into the atmosphere. Especially since the carbon dioxide output has been dramatically increased with the industrial revolution, the world's oceans have played a key role in slowing down the climate change caused by carbon dioxide.
Without the oceans ability to soak up the carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, our climate would be drastically different today. The carbon dioxide levels put out since the industrial revolution would have more quickly accumulated in the atmosphere. This would have resulted in a much faster and more dramatic temperature increase, resulting in a greater climate change due to global warming than what we have experienced.
The researchers at the University of East Anglia studied the North Atlantic Ocean for a decade. According to the scientists, the North Atlantic Ocean is the ocean with the greatest ability to absorb carbon dioxide. The scientists determined a drastic decline in the carbon dioxide uptake over the observed time frame. Earlier studies had already determined a reduction in the sink' function of the Southern Ocean. However, the North Atlantic Ocean's uptake decline occurred faster and in greater proportions.
To study the phenomenon, the scientists used merchant ships. These ships were outfitted with automatic instruments that measure the carbon dioxide level in the water. While crossing the North Atlantic Ocean to make their deliveries at the different ports throughout the world, the instruments on the merchant ships would automatically gather the information on the carbon dioxide levels in the North Atlantic Ocean on a regular basis. The scientists began gathering data in the mid-90s. The data gathered by the scientists showed that since the mid-90s the carbon dioxide uptake in the North Atlantic Ocean was cut in half.
Further studies are necessary to determine whether an up and down in the carbon dioxide uptake might be a natural occurrence in the oceans. However, the scientists do point out the drastic decline in the sink' function is reason for alarm and might be greatly attributable to the climate change caused by humans. Only further studies will be able to tell us whether the world's oceans are reaching their saturation levels for carbon dioxide absorption. If this is the case, the global climate change might accelerate more quickly than thought.