Still a carbon sink. For now.

One of our climate buffers may be losing steam.   A paper just published in Nature (even given treatment by the New York Times) gives evidence that the oceans are becoming less efficient at uptaking atmospheric carbon emissions.  This is a big deal.  As I mentioned in an earlier article on ocean acidification, the ocean functions as a carbon sink—if the ocean did not have this property, the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration would be much higher than what it is currently.  Most atmospheric carbon emissions end up in the oceans—if they lose efficiency in absorbing emissions (which we now have evidence for), it’s logical to assume that we will see carbon dioxide accumulation in the atmosphere (and its subsequent climatic effects) speed up as we reach a proverbial tipping point in the global climate paradigm.

Khatiwala S et al. 2009.  Reconstruction of the history of anthropogenic CO2 concentrations in the ocean. Nature: 462, 346-349.  doi:10.1038/nature08526

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