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Issue 17
, 2009
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Oceans Could Absorb Much More CO2

Source: ENN,Discovery News, Date: , 2009

Earth's oceans are vast reservoirs of carbon dioxide (CO2) with the potential to control the pace of global warming.

Scientists note with interest the phenomenon of "marine snow".Marine snow is a constant sprinkle of carbon-rich bits that flutter down from the sea surface to the cold depths below. Studies reveal that these flurries could suck a lot of greenhouse gas out of the atmosphere.

Each year, phytoplankton drink in 10 billion tons of carbon from the air. Their shells and excretions rain down from the surface, providing a feast for creatures that recycle up to 90 percent of the carbon back into the water as CO2. Only a light dusting lands on the ocean floor.

Today, most of the recycling happens in the first 210 meters (689 feet) below the ocean surface. According to a new study published in the journal Nature Geoscience, if that depth sank by just 24 meters, it could remove up to 27 parts per million more of CO2 from the atmosphere.The reports published in Discovery News explain the reason behind this.The deeper the snow falls into the ocean without being eaten, the more carbon-rich snow reaches the ocean floor. Once it is eaten, it becomes dissolved CO2, and it's just a matter of a short time (months to years instead of tens of thousands of years for the snow) before it makes its way back into the atmosphere.