Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. Earth Science News .

Subscribe free to our newsletters via your

Scientists Investigate Ocean's Role In Carbon Cycle, Global Warming

Ocean carbon uptake distribution map. "How much is sinking? What are the controlling mechanisms? Those are our most basic questions, and there's an ongoing debate in the scientific community about it," said the Kingston resident.
Kingston RI (SPX) Oct 05, 2005
With concerns about global warming on the rise, a team of scientists from the University of Rhode Island and the Hellenic Center for Marine Research in Greece are trying to improve the current understanding of the ocean's role in transferring carbon dioxide from the surface to the deep sea.

Led by URI Professor of Oceanography S. Bradley Moran, the scientists have just completed their second research cruise of 2005 to study the carbon cycle - the movement of carbon atoms from land to air to sea.

According to Moran, carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is transferred to seawater, where phytoplankton - microscopic marine plants - in the upper layers of the ocean use it during photosynthesis. When those plants eventually die, some of that carbon sinks to the ocean bottom.

"How much is sinking? What are the controlling mechanisms? Those are our most basic questions, and there's an ongoing debate in the scientific community about it," said the Kingston resident.

If all the extra carbon dioxide being added to the atmosphere by fossil fuel combustion sunk to the ocean bottom, it could potentially reduce global warming.

Using particle-collecting sediment traps and measurements of the naturally occurring radioactive isotope thorium-234, the researchers have collected data from the Arctic Ocean, Mediterranean Sea and North Atlantic Ocean to compare the magnitude of sinking carbon in different locations and at different times of the year. According to Moran, the data so far suggests that there are interesting differences from season to season and from place to place.

Because there is no light for half the year in the Arctic, no photosynthesis occurs during the winter and therefore less carbon sinks through the ocean water column. But with the constant light and ice melting that occurs during the summer months, there is a rapid and active biological growth cycle that increases the amount of carbon that sinks to the deep sea.

Conversely, there is less seasonal variability in phytoplankton growth and the associated sinking of carbon in the Mediterranean, which is low in nutrients. The magnitude in the North Atlantic falls in between that of the Arctic and Mediterranean.

Moran said that in addition to data collection, the researchers have been focusing on how to obtain the most accurate measurements of sinking carbon. "We're challenging the existing view on how it should be done, so we're not particularly popular right now among all of those studying the carbon cycle," he said.

The next step in the researchers' project is to determine what mechanisms control the sinking carbon. They will study how fast and how far the carbon sinks, and the extent to which it eventually returns to the surface or remains in the bottom waters and sediments.

Funded by the National Science Foundation, the joint research project with the Hellenic Center for Marine Research is an outgrowth of a partnership established between URI and the Center in 2001. Two Rhode Island high school teachers participated in the research as part of the state-funded Rhode Island Endeavor Program. Steve Vincelette of South Kingstown High School participated on the Mediterranean cruise in May, and Lucy Rainho of Shea High School in Pawtucket was on the North Atlantic cruise in August.

Related Links
University of Rhode Island
Search TerraDaily
Subscribe To TerraDaily Express

Ocean Instrument Program Led By Scripps Set To Achieve World Coverage
San Diego CA (SPX) Sep 19, 2005
An ambitious idea spawned more than 20 years ago to develop a new way to watch the world change has come to fruition.

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2016 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.