The Case of the Missing Greenhouse Gas

How Carbon Dioxide infiltrates the Ocean

©2006 MR. Fraser Thomson
For years scientists have been struggling with the puzzle of where carbon dioxide goes once it is generated- significant amounts billow into the atmosphere but atmospheric CO2 has been rising only half as fast as humans release the gas. The answer lay in the deep blue, where carbon is stored in amounts far more significant than previously believed. ‘From 1800 to 1994 the oceans soaked up 48% of the carbon emitted from human activities, such as burning wood, coal, oil or gas. Thus the oceans are currently storing about a third of their long-term potential’ said the NOAA team.
However the biochemical consequences of the ocean adsorbing vast amounts of CO2 is that when carbon dioxide mixes with sea water it forms a weak carbonic acid. Naturally erosion supplies the ocean with dissolved calcium from weathered rocks
establishing a natural buffer against the acid- finely tuned chemical conditions. Within the last 5 years evidence has started to show that the rising CO2 levels will tip the balance leading to a 10-fold acidity increase! Coral reefs and plankton species may lose significant amounts of calcium carbonate needed to build their structures.

Where oceans were once seen as a potential brake on global warming through the natural carbon storing processes, it now seems that the increased ocean uptake of CO2 may in fact cause irreversible harm to marine wildlife- including sea turtle’s shells potentially starting to dissolve.