A new study published last Friday (September 4, 2020) shows that previous models have vastly underestimated how much carbon the ocean absorbs. Previous data used to create these models looked at ocean temperature, but neglected to take into account the difference between temperatures on the surface and near the surface.
How carbon flux works
The ocean is the world’s largest carbon sink, actively removing huge amounts of carbon from the atmosphere every year. This natural cycle uses atmospheric pressure to exchange carbon with the atmosphere. Since the ocean takes more carbon than it gives back, it’s called a carbon sink.
How much carbon is emitted from the ocean is dependent on the temperature of the water. Warmer waters release more carbon, and colder waters retain more.
Mixed news for the environment
The fact that the ocean is taking more carbon than we thought is good news to a point. It means that more carbon from fossil fuels (a 10% difference) is being absorbed by oceans.
This absorption may come at a heavy price for wildlife however. The more carbon that is absorbed by the oceans, the more acidic the ocean becomes. This makes it more difficult for animals that depend on calcium for protection, such as coral reefs and crustaceans, to survive.
You can read the study and the calculations used here.