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Amount of CO2 being sucked away by Earth 'has doubled in 50 years'

'Surprising study' means models need changing. Again

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US federal government boffins have announced a "surprising new study" which reveals that the amount of carbon dioxide being drawn out of the air and absorbed by the world's landmasses and oceans doubled from 1960 to 2010.

The new information is deemed sufficiently applecart-busting in climatology terms that it has been published in flagship boffinry journal Nature today. The "surprising" description comes from an accompanying announcement by Colorado uni, where some of the investigating scientists were based.

"Earth is taking up twice as much CO2 today as it was 50 years ago," says Colorado postdoc Ashley Ballantyne, lead author of the new paper, in tinned quotes issued by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) - whose boffins were also involved in the research.

According to the NOAA:

This new global analysis makes it clear that scientists do not yet understand well enough the processes by which ecosystems of the world are removing CO2 from the atmosphere, or the relative importance of possible sinks: regrowing forests on different continents, for example, or changing absorption of carbon dioxide by various ocean regions.

"We don't know why or where this process is happening," commented NOAA boffin Pieter Tans. "We need to identify what's going on here, so that we can improve our projections of future CO2 levels and how climate change will progress in the future."

According to the Colorado uni announcement:

Recent studies by others have suggested carbon sinks were declining in some areas of the globe, including parts of the Southern Hemisphere and portions of the world's oceans. But the new Nature study showed global CO2 uptake by Earth's sinks essentially doubled from 1960 to 2010.

Apparently the forces sucking carbon from the air have increased in power especially strongly in recent years:

According to the study, the scientists observed decreased CO2 uptake by Earth's land and oceans in the 1990s, followed by increased CO2 sequestering by the planet from 2000 to 2010.

"Seeing such variation from decade to decade tells us that we need to observe Earth's carbon cycle for significantly longer periods in order to help us understand what is occurring," says Ballantyne.

The Nature study can be read by subscribers to the journal here. ®

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