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Carbon Dioxide Was Hidden in the Ocean During Last Ice

 

Why did the atmosphere contain so little carbon dioxide (CO2) during the last Ice Age 20,000 years ago? Why did it rise when Earth’s climate became warmer? Processes in the ocean are responsible for this, says a new study based on newly developed isotope measurements.

This study has now been published in the scientific journal Science by scientists from the Universities of Bern and Grenoble and the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in the Helmholtz Association.

Around 20,000 years ago, the atmospheric CO2 concentration during the last Ice Age was distinctly lower than in the following warm period. Measurements from Antarctic ice cores showed this already two decades ago. An international team of glaciologists thereafter looked even further back in time. The climate researchers found that this close connection between carbon dioxide and temperature has existed over the past 800,000 years: with low CO2 concentrations during the Ice Ages and higher CO2 values during warm periods. Now they tried to answer also the question as to where the carbon dioxide was hidden during the Ice Ages and how it got back into the atmosphere at their ends.

“We have now been able to identify processes in the ocean which are connected to the observed rise in CO2,” says Dr. Jochen Schmitt, lead author of the recently published study and researcher at the Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of Bern. According to Schmitt, during the Ice Age more and more carbon dioxide accumulated in the deep ocean, causing the concentration of atmospheric CO2 to drop. Only at the end of the Ice Age this stored CO2 was transported back to the sea surface through changing ocean circulation and thus emitted back into the atmosphere, write the scientists in the scientific journal “Science.”

A new method for isotope measurements has now made it possible for the first time “to reliably decode the fingerprint of the CO2 preserved in the ice,” explains Schmitt. He and his colleague Prof. Hubertus Fischer initially developed these new isotope measurement methods for ice cores at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research and further refined them in many years of research work after moving to Bern. Using the new method the glaciologists extract the air trapped in the ice core completely and the CO2 contained in the air is thoroughly cleaned. The different isotopes of the CO2 are analysed in a mass spectrometer and from this data the origin of the carbon dioxide can be derived.

Researchers suggested back in the eighties that this puzzle could be solved using an isotopic “CO2 fingerprint.” However, it had so far not been possible to make a precise analysis of the carbon dioxide trapped in the Antarctic ice due to the technical hurdles. The glaciologists and the climate researchers at the Universities of Bern and Grenoble and of the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research have now managed a breakthrough with their study.

 

4 Comments

  1. Jahedi Rezaul Maksud says:

    thanks for this article. It is mention-able that carbon Di-oxide is the main culprit for the climate change.Through up-welling and down-welling a big portion of co2 have been circulated by ocean current. Ocean current is playing a crucial role for contacting co2 in oecan. By this way,co2 may have conveyed in this path.

  2. SAYED LUTFUL says:

    I think oceanic process itself is responsible for emission of CO2 in the atmosphere. I got an idea of Ice age and it’s relation with CO2.

    Thanks nice post.

  3. Fayjus Salehin says:

    “Carbon Dioxide Was Hidden in the Ocean During Last Ice”. So, can we say that the hidden Carbon Dioxide has come out and polluting the world right now? as the ice age has gone. We can expect that Carbon Dioxide will hide again, as ice age is coming again.

  4. Fayjus Salehin says:

    Global Warming From Carbon Dioxide Will Increase Five-Fold Over The Next Millennium, Scientists Predict____________

    Scientists studied the impact that current carbon emissions have on the delicate balance between air and sea carbon exchange. They found that the ocean’s ability to store excessive amounts of carbon dioxide over thousands of years will affect the long-term heating of the planet.

    The ocean acts as an enormous carbon sink which naturally absorbs any extra carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere. Its ability to store more carbon dioxide than both the atmosphere and land provides long-term storage for the carbon dioxide emitted by human activities.

    Scientists at Liverpool, however, have found that if all conventional coal, oil and gas carbon reserves are exhausted, the excessive amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will begin to alter the ocean’s natural chemistry and hinder its ability to absorb and exchange the gas.

    Professor Ric Williams, from the University’s School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, explains: “It is accepted that rising atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations lead to an increase in heating around the globe. It was, however, unclear as to how the ocean’s ability to store carbon could affect the future overall heating of the earth.

    “The excessive amount of carbon in the atmosphere will make the oceans more acidic and hamper the ability of the oceans to absorb further carbon from the atmosphere. The extra carbon dioxide remaining in the atmosphere will lead to an increase in the overall heating of our planet, making sea levels rise and exacerbating the melting of the Arctic ice caps.

    “To prevent a situation like this from happening scientists are working to develop carbon-capture techniques, which aim to remove excess carbon from identifiable sites, such as the atmosphere around fossil fuel plants, and permanently store them away.”

    The research, in collaboration with the University of East Anglia, The University of Bristol and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is funded by the UK Natural Environment Research Council.

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