The Arctic coastal seas absorb the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide to an ever-decreasing extent. This leads to an increase in the level in the atmosphere and an increase in the rate of warming in the Arctic. This is the conclusion from research carried out at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.
Most scientists consider that changes to the Earth's climate are caused by increasing amounts of greenhouse gases released by humans from, for example, the combustion of fossil fuels. Carbon dioxide plays a major role in this process.
The oceans absorb carbon dioxide
Approximately half of the emission of carbon dioxide from human combustion of fossil fuels was absorbed by the oceans up until 1994. As the amount of carbon dioxide in the oceans rises, however, their capacity to absorb the gas falls, and it remains in the atmosphere.
"The greenhouse gases raise the temperature of the Earth and this increase is particularly noticeable in the Arctic. It is even more pronounced in Siberia and its coastal seas," says Irne Whlstrm, researcher in marine chemistry.
The increase in temperature has an impact on the environment in the Arctic the cover of sea ice is lower, for example, and the supply of water from rivers increases, the permafrost thaws and the rate of coastal erosion increases.
"One consequence is that organic matter that has been stored in soil is carried to the seas, where it is partially broken down to carbon dioxide," says Irne Whlstrm.
Climate change affects the carbon dioxide system
Irne Whlstrm has investigated two of the coastal seas off Siberia, the Laptev Sea and the East Siberian Sea, in a ship-borne expedition, and in the case of the Laptev Sea by mathematical modelling.
The East Siberian Sea has a western part and an eastern part, into which water flows from the Pacific Ocean.
"The level of marine photosynthesis is high in these waters during the summer,
|Contact: Irne Whlstrm|
University of Gothenburg