“Good” news about global warming: the Southern Ocean may slow the rate of global warming by absorbing significantly more heat and carbon dioxide than previously thought. This could be another factor that can buy us a few more years to make changes?IF we have the foresight to use them wisely.

The Southern Hemisphere’s westerly winds have moved southward in the last 30 years. A new climate model predicts that as the winds shift south, they can do a better job of transferring heat and carbon dioxide from the surface waters surrounding Antarctica into the deeper, colder waters. Researcher Joellen L. Russell says, “We think it will slowglobal warming. It won’t reverse or stop it, but it will slow the rate of increase.

“Because these winds have moved poleward, the Southern Ocean around Antarctica is likely to take up 20% more carbon dioxide?More heat stored in the ocean means less heat stored in the atmosphere. That’s also true for carbon dioxide, the major greenhouse gas. But there are consequences. This isn’t an unqualified good, even if more carbon dioxide and heat goes into the ocean.”

As the atmosphere warms, storing more heat in the ocean will cause sea levels to rise even faster as the warmed water expands, Russell says. Adding more CO2 to the oceans will change their chemistry, making the water more acidic and less habitable for some marine organisms.

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