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The Southern Ocean operates as an absorber of carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels, but until now scientists were in the dark as to how these ocean depths were actually locking carbon in.
Last week, scientists released a new study on the Southern Ocean, claiming to have unlocked the mystery. According to scientists involved in the research, the currents that transport carbon from the surface to the depths take place only at specific places in the ocean where there is a very exact combination of winds, currents and whirlpools to draw carbon into the ocean depths and lock it away. Some of these specific currents are as wide as 1,000 kilometers, the scientists said.
"By identifying the mechanisms responsible for taking carbon out of the surface layer in the ocean, we're in a much better situation to talk about how climate change might impact that process," said oceanographer Richard Matear, one of the authors of the Southern Ocean study published in the journal Nature Geoscience, told Reuters.
According to the study, these currents lock away some 1.5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions every year, which is more than the equivalent of Japan’s entire annual greenhouse gas emissions.
On the flip side, however, the same scientists expressed concern that the warming climate could affect this process, though the potential impact remains unknown.
By. Jen Alic of Oilprice.com