back to article Melting ice sheets create new carbon sink, say boffins

Boffins from the British Antarctic Survey say that melting of ice shelves and glaciers in Antarctica over recent decades has allowed green plants to grow, creating a massive new carbon sink which is removing the equivalent of 12.8 megatonnes of CO2 from the seas and skies each year. The BAS scientists say that during the last …

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  1. Mark Lockwood Silver badge
    Boffin

    Universial Scientific Measures

    Good to see that we are still using Wales as the size of things as it is clearly a convenient measure. But how many times will 12.8 megatonnes of carbon fit into Wembley stadium, and how many Routemaster buses will create such an amount. Inquisitive minds demand to know

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Megaphone

    What?

    But Mr Orlowski has regularly told us that the icesheets are *not* melting, so how can these scientists say that they are melting?

    And El Reg has frequently told us that Global Warming is not happening. So how can there be negative feedback on a non-existent thing?

    An alternative explanation: the world is warming, the ice-sheets are melting and this is one of many feedback effects (positive and negative) that impact what the eventual temperature rise will be.

    But this is a pretty tiny effect out of that list, so don't get too cheerful.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Save the planet and make money

    Surely with all the boffins out there, someone can make a CO2 absorbing machine, extract the carbon (letting the O2 free) and then compress the carbon into diamonds. Money and a planetg to spend it on. A win-win situation if you ask me.

    Diamonds are a girls best friend, except for Paris on ITV who needs suck up wannabees seemingly

  4. Steve Crook

    Carbon Cult, always negative.

    One of the problems I've had with the cultists is that climate change is *always* presented as bad news, with no winners. It seems to me that warmer temperatures must be good news for someone or something...

  5. Dan 10

    Blah blah blah

    Boffin says:

    "It shows nature's ability to thrive in the face of adversity."

    No, it shows how Natural changes compensate for one another in the grand scheme of things. "Adversity" doesn't come into it.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Alert

    No Snide / Cynical Comments Then?

    Unlike you, Lewis........?

    8.7 billion tonnes annually....and we humans are insignificant in this whole thing.....I think not! Factor in the increased oceanic acidification that may kill these phytoplankton off and.......who the hell knows.....?! Just a shame we haven't all adopted the 'precautionary principle' instead of polarising ourselves between the sceptics and believers.

  7. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
    Welcome

    12345

    I for one welcome our new co2 absorbing plankton overlords.

    As I've decided not to have kids (dodged a bullet there methinks) my carbon footprint is above reproach.

    'Scuse me, I'm off to burn Nottingham Forest.

  8. Stuart 22
    Thumb Up

    The Land of my Mothers

    Hmmm - "exposed an area of seawater the size of Wales (24,000 km2) which has now - as it now receives sunlight - got phytoplankton in it."

    So that only compensates for an area the size of Wales (Wales) that receives no sunlight - or at least everytime I visit it. Given that Wales has given up most of its coal carbon sink perhaps the boffins should concentrate on how we could cover Wales in new reflective glaciers. Just think of the collateral benefits - no need to fly to the ski slopes and the end of S4C and Cardiff City supporters!

  9. CD001

    so much meh

    > Just a shame we haven't all adopted the 'precautionary principle'

    Whereas I've adopted a "do not care" principle. Even if we nerf the climate to the point where humans become extinct - plenty of other organisms will thrive - life goes on - well, potentially for the next 3 billion years or so anyway before this particular rock burns. We can't save the planet, the best we can hope for is to keep it ticking over long enough for the human species to evolve into something that doesn't need it.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Err...

    When the plankton sinks to the bottom and rots, surely it gives up Methane, which is rather bad.

    As a side point - fresh water running into the oceans is a pretty major problem for marine life, particularly corals.

  11. strum Silver badge
    FAIL

    Straw clutching

    As title.

    Is this tiny bit of relief enough to balance the release of methane from the tundra? No.

    Stop wasting our time, Reg.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Questions

    Don't wales eat the phytoplankton?

    How many wales in a whales?

    How many phytoplankton would a wales whale fight if a wales whale would fight phytoplankton?

    I need a little lie-down now...

  13. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
    Coffee/keyboard

    phantastic

    "How many phytoplankton would a wales whale fight if a wales whale would fight phytoplankton?"

    CotW +1

    Wow, an actual laugh-out-loud comment !

    If I'd been eating/drinking, you'd owe me a keyboard AC.

  14. Wade Burchette

    Huh

    I *COULD* believe this study if the Antarctic didn't reach yet another record high in ice mass this year. Oh, they left that part out didn't they. Can't get funding if there isn't a problem. Tie "global warming" to a study and you'll be fat with cash faster than you can count to 3.

    And since I am not a global warming advocate, I like to have proof. Unlike the global warming advocates, who hate proof of any kind.

    http://icecap.us/index.php/go/icing-the-hype/reminder_antarctic_ice_growing_not_melting_away/

    http://icestories.exploratorium.edu/dispatches/terra-nova-bay-or-bust/

  15. Pyros
    Boffin

    Well, at least it's a bit comforting.

    Of course, I should look up my father's old data on marine snow*, as he pioneered that particular data-sampling method back in the late 80's.

    Would be rather illuminating, in a dry sort of sense.

    *Marine snow--another name for dead phytoplankton; underwater they drift down to the seafloor not unlike a gentle snowfall.

  16. Ed Blackshaw Silver badge

    @Fraser

    "When the plankton sinks to the bottom and rots, surely it gives up Methane, which is rather bad."

    Except that at low tempreratures and high pressures, such as you get at the bottom of oceans, organic material does not rot particularly quickly, so a good proportion of it becomes buried in sediment. Any methane which does get produced doesn't bubble to the surface, as under such conditions, it is likely to form a frozen gas hydrate which then becomes buried, or dissolve in deep waters, which do not mix with surface waters at any great rate.

  17. TS

    Size of Wales?

    Is that normal Wales or a ironed out Wales?

  18. Tom 38 Silver badge
    Go

    @Ed

    Blow me down, sounds like a carbon sink.

  19. Britt Johnston
    Pirate

    @Blah blah blah

    I think it shows that scientists have found one more parameter in their climate change model.

    Things were already changing - agreed, Nature was not fighting adversity - before the research was done.

    "Natural changes compensating for one another in the grand scheme of things" would be homeostatic? This a biological mechanism which always applies, unless feedback mechanisms go out of control.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    Shock News

    The earth's climate is self-regulating. After millions of years, who'd a thunk it.

    At least I don't need to feel so bad about that fart then, whew. Bon appetit, phytoplankton.

  21. Aitor 1 Silver badge

    Energy

    So the earth retains more energy.. remember that white ice reflects the light.. and are we going to celebrate? The potential CO2 removal makes it a little bit less bad.. but that is all.

    And, as some folk said, they are recognizing, after all, that the ice is shrinking? How is it possible to say that it is a good thing?

  22. Goat Jam
    Headmaster

    Uh, No

    "fresh water running into the oceans is a pretty major problem for marine life, particularly corals."

    No totally wrong. Fresh water is perfectly fine, rivers have been flowing into oceans for eons without causing any problems.

    The problem is when that "fresh" water becomes loaded with nutrients such as the fertilizer runoff coming from sugar plantations which is threatening the Great Barrier Reef presently.

    Nutrient rich water = algae = suffocation for coral.

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  24. Keith Oldham
    Pint

    Re :Universial Scientific Measures

    I make 12.8 M tonnes of CO2 equivalent to ~3E11 mol (no I'm not kidding -look it up) or 6.5E12 Litres or 6.5 billion cubic metres - sorry no idea how big Wembley stadium is. As for the Routemaster depends if it's stuck in a traffic jam - I guess most of them were.

    Beer 'cos 6.5E12 Litres is a lot of beer

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