Southern Ocean losing ability to soak up carbon dioxide, researchers say

If you’re counting on the seas to soak up excess emissions and get us out of this climate mess, you might need a new plan. Scientists say Antarctica’s Southern Ocean, a whopper of a “carbon sink,” is losing its ability to absorb more carbon dioxide. The findings, published in the journal Science, suggest that warming temperatures have intensified winds, those winds help bring carbon up from the depths of the ocean, and that stirred-up carbon keeps surface waters from absorbing more carbon. It’s a climate-change catch-22 — or, as the kids call it, a “positive feedback” — that was expected, but not for another 40 years. “This is the first unequivocal detection of a carbon sink weakening because of recent climate change,” said lead author Corinne Le Quéré. “This is serious. Whenever the world has greatly warmed in the past, the weakening of CO2 sinks has contributed to it.” She seems darn sure, but others say the results aren’t conclusive. And somewhere in the future, people are laughing at us.