Climate change escalating, professor finds

The world’s oceans are absorbing less carbon dioxide, which could cause global temperatures to rise even faster than they have risen in past five decades, Yale geophysicist Jeffrey Park found in a recent study.

Park, a professor of geology and geophysics and the director of the Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies, pooled 50 years of data from atmospheric observatories in Hawaii, Alaska and Antarctica. He found oceans now only absorb about 40 percent of atmospheric carbon dioxide, compared to 50 percent half a century ago. Park’s study was published in the Nov. 25 issue of Geophysical Research Letters.

“Human activity has put 10 [to] 20 times more CO2 into the atmosphere than a big El Niño does, and the climate response is big enough to notice,” Park said in an e-mail. “A large proportion of the CO2 we emit is absorbed by the oceans, which are becoming measurably more acidic as a result. If this absorption slows, more of our CO2 stays in the air and adds more greenhouse effect. So climate change will occur faster.”

Park compared a warmer ocean to a glass of warm soda, which has fewer carbon dioxide bubbles than a glass of cold soda.

The oceans play a major role in regulating carbon dioxide levels, Yale geology and geophysics professor Hagit Affek said.

“The increase in CO2 in the atmosphere is half of what we’d expect from how much fossil fuels we burn,” Affek said. “The other half is being absorbed by the oceans and by photosynthesis.”

While human activity has played a role in global warming, Park said he did not think humans have altered how the oceans absorb carbon dioxide. He noted that studies have not found any meaningful way for humans to affect the oceans’ carbon dioxide absorption in the long term. He added that reduced carbon dioxide absorption is more likely caused by a change in underwater currents or an increase in the oceans’ surface temperature.

The idea for this study came to Park when he was writing a problem set for a graduate course in geology and geophysics. He expected to confirm the results of a 1990 study on the same topic, but instead found that the oceans’ ability to absorb carbon dioxide had changed in the intervening two decades.

Park is also a part of a project that monitors the melting of the Greenland ice sheet, which has raised concerns about a potential collapse of the ice sheet. A collapse of the Greenland ice sheet would raise sea levels by seven meters, Park warned.

The study was funded by the Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies.


  • Allison

    Good evidence that we should ignore “scientists” and continue on with fossil fuels as-is.

  • Tanner

    So its offically “climant change,” not warming. Climate has always changed hasnt it?
    Recently it was found that the polar caps on Mars are melting as well. Years ago I read an article that there are increase CO2 levels on Mars. Was this due to the machinary NASA dropped on Mars?
    Many outside the Gore camp feel the changing climate is to Solar activity.

  • Ugh…

    Even if the greenhouse effect weren’t an imminent threat, there are lots of other reasons why we should be switching to renewable fuel sources. Even if you don’t believe global warming is real (in which case, please, please never reproduce), fossil fuels will not be a sustainable energy source through the 21st century… we’re going to run out! Talk about economic collapse! What’s more… why are we pumping billions of dollars into the middle east when we could be developing our own energy industries in this country?

  • Tanner

    Yes, yes Ugh we all understand about fossil fuels running out, although that time table changes almost as quickly as
    the climant forecasts. Having multiple energy sources is a
    very good thing for consumers. I’m waithing for windmills
    off lighthouse point. Petroleum is used for other products
    outside of gasoline. And before you ban oil just add to the
    mix of all the South American and African socialist governments that use oil revenues for all their wonderful programs,

  • Grd ’13

    Allison – so presumably you believe in scientists, just not “scientists”? The people producing this data are quite reputable and in fact every major scientific organization has staked their reputation on anthropogenic warming, so perhaps the one missing out on science is you?

    Tanner – The climate has been as warm as it’s going to get in the past, but not during human history. You don’t want to live in a world similar that that of 55Myr ago. Also there is no “Gore” camp, that’s merely a public figure popularizing an idea, he matters not at all to science. Real scientists understand solar cycles and orbital forcing parameters and deniers can find no evidence there.

    Take a science class so you can understand and defend your points. Don’t just take your talking points from Fox “News”. Your opinions are bought and paid for, don’t buy in.

  • Tanner

    to Grd 13 The climate has been as warm as it’s going to get in the past, but not during human history. WHAT?

    Is that your stock answer to anything that challenges you is say “FOX News.”

    I’m always amazed at reading things that begin with “An unexpected….” or “…it goes against the accepted beliefs of the scientific community.” The “Community” is more often then not a group lounging about an ivy or gothic university.