The Southern Ocean has begun to absorb more atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) according to new research from an international team, including the University of East Anglia. A decade ago scientists announced that the amount of CO2 being absorbed by the Southern Ocean had not increased since the late 1980s. And it was feared that this ‘carbon sink’ might have begun to saturate.
But new research to be published tomorrow (Friday) in the journal Science reveals that rather than stalling, the amount of CO2 being absorbed is on the rise again. It is thought that changes in weather – particularly wind patterns and temperature – are responsible for this reinvigoration.
But the research team say that while this may look like good news for climate change, the effect could only be temporary and that future trends cannot be predicted reliably.
Dr Dorothee Bakker, from UEA’s School of Environmental Sciences, said: “The Southern Ocean behaves like a giant lung – breathing in and absorbing vast amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and releasing it later in the year.
“The seas around Antarctica absorb significantly more CO2 than they release. And importantly, they remove a large part of the CO2 that is put into the atmosphere by human activities such as burning fossil fuels. They basically help to slow down the growth of this greenhouse gas in the atmosphere and lessen the rate of climate change.
“We looked at what is happening in the Southern Ocean – which is responsible for capturing 40 per cent of the global oceanic uptake of man-made CO2.
“In the 2000s scientists pointed out that the Southern Ocean carbon sink might have begun to saturate. This was actually quite unexpected as it was previously thought that there would be a direct relationship between the amount of CO2 in the air, and the amount of CO2 absorbed by the sea. Research back then showed that the amount of CO2 captured by the Southern Ocean had not increased since the late 1980s.
“But our findings reveal that the tables have turned and that this carbon sink has reinvigorated over the past decade. It is much stronger – and it has in fact regained its expected strength.”
Led by Prof Nicolas Gruber from ETH Zurich and his postdoc Peter Landschützer, who previously carried out PhD research at UEA, the research team analysed the concentration of CO2 in the surface waters of the Southern Ocean, available via the Surface Ocean CO2 Atlas (SOCAT). www.socat.info
This resource is coordinated by Dr Bakker, and the latest data collection (SOCAT version 3) was made public earlier this week – with 14.5 million surface water CO2 measurements from 1957 to 2014 taken from oceans and coastal seas around the world.
The surface CO2 concentration of the Southern Ocean is measured by research vessels, but data coverage depends on each ship’s itinerary. As a result, certain regions of the ocean are very well sampled, while little or no data is collected for other regions. To fill in these gaps, the research team used a newly-developed method based on neural networks.
They compared the basin-wide surface ocean CO2 concentration with estimates based on measurements of atmospheric CO2. They also made use of satellite observations of sea water temperature, salinity and of the chlorophyll content.
The results clearly demonstrate that the Southern Ocean carbon sink began to revive around 2002. By 2010, its carbon uptake was once again comparable to the level expected on the basis of atmospheric CO2 increase alone.
This shows that the strength of the Southern Ocean carbon sink fluctuates strongly, rather than increasing monotonically in response to the growth in atmospheric CO2.
Prof Gruber said: “We were surprised to see such large variations in this ocean’s net carbon uptake.”
The research team say that changes in the prevailing weather patterns are responsible for the reinvigoration of the carbon sink.
Dr Bakker said: “Since the turn of the millennium, the dominant atmospheric pressure systems have changed, causing wind patterns to change too. In the 1990s, winds were stronger over the Southern Ocean, causing more water to be upwelled to the surface of the sea from the depth. But deeper waters contain higher concentrations of dissolved CO2 so this upwelling led to more greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere and a reduction in the ocean’s net carbon uptake.
“Since the turn of the millennium, upwelling has generally subsided, except in the Pacific sector, causing a reinvigoration of the Southern Ocean carbon sink. Our research also shows that a cooling of surface water in the Pacific sector has contributed to the change.”
But the research team warns that future trends cannot be predicted reliably.
Dr Landschützer said: “Our statistical model is not able to predict the future development so it is critical that we continue measuring the surface ocean CO2 concentrations in the Southern Ocean.
“This is particularly important since current models are not able to reproduce the observed variations”, added Prof Gruber. Hence, long-term datasets are the only reliable means for determining the future evolution of the ocean’s sink for carbon.
Another factor that is not yet fully understood is the effect of large-scale climate phenomena such as El Niño and La Niña on carbon sinks. The reinvigoration in the Southern Ocean coincides with a period of prevalent La Niña conditions, as well as the so-called climate warming hiatus.
‘Reinvigoration of the Southern Ocean Carbon Sink’ is published in the journal Science on September 11, 2015.
4 Common Items That Can be Reused Again and Again
As a society we are getting much better at taking our obligations to the world and environment around us more seriously. This is undoubtedly a good thing! The effects of climate change are beginning to manifest across the world, and this is turning the issue from an abstract threat into a very real danger. Trying to introduce some greener, more eco-friendly practices into your life isn’t just a great way of doing something beneficial for society and the world around you. It is a wonderful way of engaging positively with the world and carries with it numerous psychological benefits.
Being a greener, more ecologically friendly person doesn’t require any dramatic life changes. Breaking or making a few small habits is all it takes to make your life a greener one. In this article we look at one of the easiest, yet most effective green practices to get into: reusing everyday items.
Jars and Containers
Glass and metal are widely recycled, and recycling is a good thing! However, consider whether any containers you buy, whether it’s a tub of ice cream or a jar of coffee, can be washed out and reused for something else. Mason jars, for example, can be used to store homemade pasta sauce and can be washed for future use. Once you start thinking about it, you will find endless opportunities to reuse your old containers.
An ice-cold soda is a wonderful treat on a hot day, but buying soda can get expensive, and the manufacturing and distribution of the drinks themselves isn’t great for the environment. However, by holding on to your old soda bottles and repurposing them as water bottles, you can save money on drinks, or use them to measure out water for your garden.
Most of the time groceries come in paper bags, which are better for the environment than the plastic alternatives, but they are less durable and thus harder to reuse. Whenever the store places your items in a plastic bag, hang onto it so you can reuse the bags again. If you want to take it one step further, consider looking into buying some personalized recycled bags. These bags are designed to last for a long time and are made of recycled materials. They look striking and unique, they’ll turn heads, and maybe even attitudes!
If you’re a keen gardener, then you will already probably know how to reseed your plants in order to ensure a fresh crop after each plant’s lifecycle. If you have space in your garden, or haven’t yet tried your hand at gardening, then consider planting a small vegetable plot. Growing your own veggies means that you’ll be helping to cut back on the emissions generated by their transport and production. The best part about growing your own food in this way is that, by harvesting properly and saving the seeds, you can be set up with fresh vegetables for life!
Reusing and recycling common household items is an easy way to make your world a little bit greener. Once you start looking for these opportunities you’ll realize that they’re everywhere!
These 5 Green Office Mistakes Are Costing You Money
The sudden interest in green business is very encouraging. According to recent reports, 42% of all companies have rated sustainability as an important element of their business. Unfortunately, the focus on sustainability will only last if companies can find ways to use it to boost their ROI.
Many businesses get so caught up in being socially conscious that they hope the financial aspect of it takes care of itself. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to go green and boost your net income at the same time.
Here are some important mistakes that you will want to avoid.
Only implementing sustainability on micro-scale
The biggest reason that brands are going green is to improve their optics with their customers. Too many businesses are making very minor changes, such as processing paperwork online and calling themselves green.
Customers have become wary of these types of companies. If you want to earn their business, you are going to need to go all the way. Bring in a green business consultant and make every feasible change to demonstrate that you are a green organization from top to bottom.
Not prioritizing investments by long-term ROI
It isn’t realistic to build an entirely green organization overnight. You will need to allocate your capital wisely.
Before investing in any green assets or services, you should always conduct a long-term cost benefit analysis. The initial investment for some green services may be over $20,000. If they don’t shave your cost by at least $3,000 a year, they probably aren’t worth the investment.
Determine which green investments will have the best pay off over the next 10 years. Make these investments before anything else. Then compare your options within each of those categories.
Implementing green changes without a plan
Effective, long-term planning is the key to business success. This principle needs to be applied to green organizations as well.
Before implementing a green strategy, you must answer the following questions:
- How will I communicate my green business philosophy to my customers?
- How will running a green business affect my revenue stream?
- How will adopting green business strategies change my monthly expenses? Will they increase or decrease them?
- How will my company finance green upgrades and other investments?
The biggest mistake that too many green businesses make is being overly optimistic with these forecasts. Take the time to collect objective data and make your decisions accordingly. This will help you run a much more profitable green business.
Not considering the benefits of green printing
Too many companies believe that going paperless is the only way to run a green organization. Unfortunately, going 100% paperless it’s not feasible for most companies.
Rather than aim for an unrealistic goal, consider the option of using a more environmentally friendly printer. It won’t be perfect, but it will be better than the alternative.
According to experts from Doranix, environmental printers have several benefits:
- They can process paper that has been completely recycled.
- They consume less energy than traditional printers.
- They use ink that is more environmentally friendly.
You want to take a look at different green printers and compare them. You’ll find that some will meet your needs as a green business.
Poorly communicating your green business strategy to customers
Brand positioning doesn’t happen on its own. If you want to run a successful green business, you must communicate your message to customers as clearly as possible. You must also avoid the appearance that you are patronizing them.
The best approach is to be clear when you were first making the change. I’ll make an announcement about your company‘s commitment to sustainability.
You also want to reinforce this message overtime by using green labels on all of your products. You don’t have to be blatant with your messaging at this stage. Simply provide a small, daily reminder on your products and invoices.
Finally, it is a good idea to participate in green business seminars and other events. If your community has a local Green Chamber of Commerce, you should consider joining as well.
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