Data from Robotic Ocean Floats Reveal that Waters Off Antarctica Don’t Absorb as Much Carbon as Scientists Thought

Dec. 17, 2018

The Southern Ocean is one of humanity’s allies, slowing global warming by absorbing heat and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. But now researchers report that the choppy waters around Antarctica are also quietly belching out massive quantities of CO2 during the dark and windy winter, reducing the ocean’s climate benefit.

The scientists behind the work, presented this week at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in Washington DC, say that the winter emissions reduce the Southern Ocean’s net uptake of CO2 by 34%, or more than 1.4 billion tonnes per year. That amount is roughly equal to Japan's annual carbon emissions.

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