The oceans are losing the capacity to soak up rising man-made carbon emissions, which is increasing the rate of global warming by up to 30 per cent, scientists said yesterday.
Researchers have found that the Southern Ocean is absorbing an ever-decreasing proportion of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The excess carbon, which cannot be absorbed by the oceans, will remain in the atmosphere and accelerate global warming, they said.
The reduced ability to absorb carbon is thought to be a result of high winds acting on ocean currents bringing deeper waters that already contain high levels of carbon to the surface.
The higher winds are themselves believed to have been caused by climate change due to a combination of changes in the ozone layer and carbon emissions.
The scientists from countries including Britain, France and Germany, said their findings marked the first time that one of the world’s natural “carbon sinks” had been shown to be weakened by Man’s own actions.
Ian Totterdell, a climate modeller at the Met Office Hadley Centre, described the research as “an important piece of work”.
He said: “This is the first time we have been able to get convincing evidence that a change in the uptake of CO2 by the oceans is linked to climate change.