Ocean Temperature and CO2
Date: April 2007
If the water of the ocean becomes warmer, the absorption
of CO2 becomes more difficult, and emission easier. Where can I find
some quantitative data (e.g. a mathematical formula or a reference)
on this phenomenon? It seems to me very crucial in understanding
whether atmospheric CO2 produces global warming, or vice versa
increase of temperature gives rise to CO2.
The solubility of CO2 (and other gases) is obviously an important
issue, as you recognize. It has also been highly researched and
there is a massive amount of literature at all levels of
sophistication. This reflects the fact that the problem is
very complicated -- temperature, salinity, depth,
presence/absence of carbonate rock, tides and currents,
the list is long... A "Google" search on the term
"solubility CO2 sea water" quickly hit this half dozen
sites and there are dozens more that I could have added to
the list. Understanding the carbon cycle in sea water is very
important, but also very intricate. These "hits" should give
you a good "jumping off" point.
It is not quite as straightforward as that. While it is true that the s
olubility of CO2 in water decreases with increasing temperature, the
solubility of gases into liquid also depends on the pressure of that
gas. This means that while less CO2 gets dissolved in warmer oceans,
it is also true that with more CO2 in the atmosphere, more of it will
dissolve. We also have to remember that "solubility" means the maximum
mount of solute dissolved in a solvent under particular conditions.
Thus, it may be that more CO2 will dissolve in the oceans (as more
CO2 enters the atmosphere) if the oceans are not as yet saturated.
Moreover, remember that as CO2 dissolves in water, some of it reacts
with the water to form carbonic acid - thus, there may be more CO2
dissolved in other forms.
I think the key here is measurement. We need to continue gathering
Greg (Roberto Gregorious)
Let me add this too:
Vince is exactly correct: this issue is extraordinarily complex. There is no
simple equation or even set of equations to describe what is going on. In
fact, there is much less scientific consensus on how much CO2 is dissolved
in oceans than this is for air or ground. Let me restate this to be clear:
we know a lot more about air and land CO2 than we do about the oceans. In
short, mankind just cannot predict very well how the oceans will affect
atmospheric CO2 or global climate -- at least not with the certainty or
simplicity that would be easy to convey in this forum.
Wish I had better information for you.
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Update: June 2012