Thursday, February 12, 2015

Carbon Release from Ocean Helped End the Ice Age

Joides Resolution, Bay of Bengal (Indian Ocean), IODP Expeditions 353 (Credit: William Crawford, IODP/TAMU) Click to Enlarge.
A release of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the deep ocean helped bring an end to the last Ice Age, according to new collaborative research by the University of Southampton, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), the Australian National University (ANU), and international colleagues.

Published Wednesday in Nature, the study shows that carbon stored in an isolated reservoir deep in the Southern Ocean re-connected with the atmosphere, driving a rise in atmospheric CO2 and an increase in global temperatures.  The finding gives scientists an insight into how the ocean affects the carbon cycle and climate change.

Atmospheric CO2 levels fluctuate from about 185 parts-per-million (ppm), during ice ages, to around 280 ppm, during warmer periods like today (termed interglacials).  The oceans currently contain approximately sixty times more carbon than the atmosphere, and that carbon can exchange rapidly (from a geological perspective) between these two systems (atmosphere-ocean).

Joint lead author Dr. Miguel Martínez-Botí from the University of Southampton adds: “The magnitude and rapidity of the swings in atmospheric CO2 across the ice age cycles suggests that changes in ocean carbon storage are important drivers of natural atmospheric CO2 variations.

Read more at Carbon Release from Ocean Helped End the Ice Age

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