Study: Invisible scum on sea cuts CO2 exchange with air ‘by up to 50%’

This article discusses how an ocean scum is blocking the absorption of CO2 by the oceans. Scientists say the findings have major implications for predicting our future climate.

An invisible layer of scum on the sea surface can reduce carbon dioxide exchange between the atmosphere and the oceans by up to 50%, scientists have discovered.

Researchers from Heriot-Watt, Newcastle and Exeter universities say the findings, published in the journal Nature Geoscience on Monday, have major implications for predicting our future climate.

The world’s oceans absorb around a quarter of all man-made carbon dioxide emissions, making them the largest long-term sink of carbon on Earth.

Greater sea turbulence increases gas exchange between the atmosphere and oceans and until now it was difficult to calculate the effect of “biological surfactants”.

Teams from the Natural Environment Research Council, the Leverhulme Trust and the European Space Agency developed a system that compares “the surfactant effect” between different seawaters in real time.

They found surfactants can reduce carbon dioxide exchange by up to 50%.

 

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