Scientists examine North Atlantic 'sink'

June 11, 1999

Scientists from Plymouth and Southampton are among a group meeting in Bremen to decide how global warming is affecting the North Atlantic. They will examine ten years of data on oceanic levels of carbon dioxide, the gas whose increased concentration due to fossil fuel burning is regarded as the main cause of artificial climate change.

It appears that the North Atlantic is a major "sink" of carbon dioxide, and may have absorbed a quarter of the carbon dioxide produced by industrial activity.

It seems that in the eastern Atlantic comparatively little anthropogenic carbon dioxide has penetrated the deep ocean as it has not been found below about 3,500m. But in the western Atlantic off Canada it is found all the way to the sea floor because the more severe ocean currents there cause deeper and more complete mixing of ocean water.

Because it lies between Europe and North America, the North Atlantic is the likeliest reservoir to take up more atmospheric carbon dioxide. Ludger Montrop of Bremen University, one of the conference organisers, says the aim is to allow researchers to make better use of thousands of profiles of ocean concentrations of carbon dioxide to help with climate prediction and understanding the oceans.

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