Financial Times (London, UK), May 18, 2007


[Rachel's introduction: In a double whammy, the Southern Ocean has now absorbed so much carbon dioxide that is turning acidic, but it is also reaching its limit for further absorption -- thus accelerating the buildup of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere.]

By Clive Cookson

Recent climate change has weakened one of the earth's most important natural carbon "sinks", according to a four-year international study published today.

An increase in winds over the southern ocean, caused by man-made global warming and ozone depletion, has led to a release of stored carbon dioxide from the ocean into the atmosphere and is preventing further absorption of the greenhouse gas.

The study was undertaken by the University of East Anglia, British Antarctic Survey and the Max-Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Germany and is published in the online edition of the journal Science. It suggests stabilising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere will be even more difficult than previously believed.

To make matters worse, acidification of the southern ocean as a result of dissolved carbon dioxide is likely to reach dangerous levels before the projected date of 2050.

Corinne Le Quere, the study leader, said: "This is the first time that we've been able to say climate change itself is responsible for the saturation of the southern ocean sink. This is serious. All climate models predict that this kind of 'feedback' will continue and intensify during this century."

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007