NewScientist.com news service
One of the world's largest carbon sinks has stopped soaking up the carbon dioxide that humans are pumping into the atmosphere, according to a new study.
Global warming has caused the Southern Ocean to become windier, churning up the waters so that they are unable to absorb CO2 at the rate we produce it, the researchers say.
The implications are far-reaching, and once more imply that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's projections are conservative: temperatures are likely to rise higher than predicted.
Corinne Le Quéré at the University of East Anglia in the UK, and colleagues say their study suggests that climate feedback loops – whereby more CO2 in the atmosphere causes warming which in turn releases even more CO2 from the oceans – are happening between 20 and 40 years before they were expected.
"This is serious," says Le Quéré. "All climate models predict that this kind of feedback will continue and intensify during this century."