Re: NANFA-- Southern Ocean soaks up carbon dioxide

Bruce Stallsmith (
Sun, 30 Jan 2000 00:39:47 EST

Thanks for bringing this back, Mark; I was too distracted to answer the
first time. You're right, this story makes little sense chemically. The
human contribution of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere is tiny in terms of
the world's overall carbon cycle. This contribution may be enough to
increase the atmospheric fraction some, up to the current levels of about
360 parts per million (ppm). This is probably a bad thing for us to do; it's
really an open-air experiment we're running now. But in sheer mass, our
annual contribution to the atmosphere is a tiny fraction of the carbon that
is part of the carbonate buffering of the oceans. The ocean will sponge up
all the carbon dioxide we're releasing; it just works on time scales of ten
thousand years. The acidity they're talking about here is the result of
carbonic acid forming from the dissolution of carbon dioxide into water.
This is not a major acid group forming, it certainly won't corrode the
carbonates in the ocean. For one thing, most of these carbonates are in the
deep, deep ocean, under intense pressure that basically locks it in where it
is. And for a second, the oceans just don't absorb carbon dioxide fast
enough for it to significantly affect the overall mass balance in the

I haven't read the article in question, so I shouldn't rail against it in
any big way. But the one physical process that may save us from a
significant climate change is the absorption of CO2 by the oceans.

(I forget that not everybody has a background in geochemical cycles...)

--Bruce Stallsmith
Huntsville, AL
"Snowbound here is the announcement of a snowstorm"

>At 4:50 PM -0800 1/28/00, Shireen Gonzaga wrote:
> > Manmade carbon dioxide is being soaked up by the
> >cold waters of the Southern Ocean and transported to
> >the deep waters of the subtropical ocean, researchers
> >report in today's issue of Science.
> >
> > The thirst-quencher, it turns out, might not be kind
> >to the marine environment. Manmade carbon dioxide
> >makes the water more acidic. The acidity is corrosive
> >to calcium carbonate, an essential ingredient of
> >shells and coral reefs.
> >
> >For more, see
> >
>Just shooting off my mouth here, but I would think the buffering capacity
>of the oceans would be huge. Wonder if the acid generated is anywhere near
>sufficient to overcome that buffering?
>Mark Binkley
>Columbus Ohio USA <))><

Get Your Private, Free Email at

/"Unless stated otherwise, comments made on this list do not necessarily
/ reflect the beliefs or goals of the North American Native Fishes
/ Association"
/ This is the discussion list of the North American Native Fishes Association
/ To subscribe, unsubscribe, or get help, send the word
/ subscribe, unsubscribe, or help in the body (not subject) of an email to
/ For a digest version, send the command to
/ instead.
/ For more information about NANFA, visit our web page,