Global warming is changing Arctic seas from where CO2 is absorbed to where it is produced, new study warns
By Damien Gayle
PUBLISHED: 15:29 GMT, 19 June 2012 | UPDATED: 16:10 GMT, 19 June 2012
The Arctic coastal seas are changing from a sink for atmospheric carbon dioxide to a source of the greenhouse gas because of global warming, new research warns.
Research into two seas bordering the polar region has shown that they are absorbing ever smaller amounts of atmospheric CO2 and, at points of the year, even becoming a source of the gas.
The shock finding suggests that climate change could be fast becoming a vicious, inescapable cycle which can only further accelerate the damage to the environment.
Most scientists agree that changes to the Earth’s climate are caused by increasing amounts of greenhouse gases released by humans from, for example, the combustion of fossil fuels.
Carbon dioxide plays a major role in this process. But, until 1994, approximately half for the world’s CO2 emissions from human combustion of fossil fuels was absorbed by the oceans.
As the amount of carbon dioxide in the oceans rises, however, their capacity to absorb the gas falls, and it remains in the atmosphere.
Iréne Wåhlström, a marine researcher from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, investigated two of the coastal seas off Siberia, the Laptev Sea and the East Siberian Sea, in a ship-borne expedition, and – in the case of the Laptev Sea – by mathematical modelling.