Carbon emissions from human activity does not just go straight into the atmosphere, causing the planet to heat up. While a large percentage of it does – roughly half – some of it is absorbed into the ocean. And now new research has found there has been some miscalculations on how much carbon dioxide is being absorbed by the ocean.
The new study found that previous climate models only took into consideration the surface temperature of the ocean when calculating how much is absorbed by Earth’s water.
The cooler the ocean, the more CO2 it absorbs. However, just a few metres beneath the surface, the temperature of the ocean begins to drop drastically.
Now scientists believe previous estimates may have been as much as 10 percent off.
Professor Andrew Watson, of the University of Exeter’s Global Systems Institute, said: “Half of the carbon dioxide we emit doesn’t stay in the atmosphere but is taken up by the oceans and land vegetation ‘sinks’.
“Researchers have assembled a large database of near-surface carbon dioxide measurements — the ‘Surface Ocean Carbon Atlas’ — that can be used to calculate the flux of CO2 from the atmosphere into the ocean.
“Previous studies that have done this have, however, ignored small temperature differences between the surface of the ocean and the depth of a few meters where the measurements are made.
“Those differences are important because carbon dioxide solubility depends very strongly on temperature.
“We used satellite data to correct for these temperature differences, and when we do that it makes a big difference — we get a substantially larger flux going into the ocean.