According to recent reports, the Southern Ocean around Antarctica has begun soaking up more greenhouse gases, essentially helping limit climate change.

The natural absorption of carbon reportedly roughly doubled to around 1.2 billion tons in 2011 from levels one decade earlier. The 1.2 billion tons is the equivalent of the European Union's annual greenhouse gas emissions.

Of course, this is good news for the slowing of climate change, but it is currently very unclear just how long the Southern Ocean will continue to soak up this much carbon. The Southern Ocean is the world's strongest ocean region when it comes to absorbing carbon.

Changes in temperature and in wind have reportedly driven the change, and are linked to atmospheric high-pressure systems over the Atlantic area of the Southern Ocean, and low-pressure systems in the Pacific area.

Scientists report that the Southern Ocean essentially acts like a giant lung, absorbing carbon and releasing it every year, although there is a net uptake. The findings were somewhat of a surprise after reporters found that there had been a stalling in that uptake since 1980. The stalling raised fears that the ocean itself was reaching a saturation point that would end up leaving even more greenhouse gases in the environment.

Oceans in general have reportedly absorbed around one-quarter of the greenhouse gases emitted by humans since 1870, with the Southern Ocean accounting for around 40 percent of that absorption.

While this might be good news for climate change, it may be bad news for marine life. This is because of the fact that once absorbed, some of the carbon becomes carbonic acid. Acidification of the water could prevent sea animals such as crabs and lobsters from being able to properly grow their shells, making them vulnerable to predators.

Researchers published their findings in the journal Science after analyzing observational data about the levels of carbon dioxide on the ocean's surface that had been collected over decades.

Via: Reuters

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