Antarctica, up until recently a pristine continent, is rapidly showing signs of strain related to global warming – as is the ocean around it.
The Southern Ocean is an important carbon sink; capturing and storing around 15% of the planet’s carbon dioxide emissions.
According to the latest edition of the journal Science, researchers from the EU, Japan, USA, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand have discovered the Southern Ocean has reached maximum carbon dioxide saturation levels – and did so in the 1980’s.
This may explain some of the other recent findings by scientists in regards to atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and global warming escalating much more rapidly than previously predicted.
Particularly alarming is the fact that the Southern Ocean wasn’t expected to hit these saturation levels until the middle of this century.
The overloading of carbon dioxide levels has been caused by increased winds in the Southern Ocean. Usually the winds are such that carbon dioxide is naturally mixed in with the water due to wave activity, but when wind increases, carbon stored deep in the ocean rises to the surface, decreasing the capacity for the body of water to store excesses such as what humans create through industry.
Even the wind increase is said to be human related; through ozone depletion which creates major temperature changes in the atmosphere, coupled with higher temperatures in the northern hemisphere compared to the southern hemisphere.
Added to less capacity to process carbon dioxide, high levels of CO2 in sea water also increase ocean acidity, marine life such as shellfish by softening or dissolving their shells.