What they did: For a new study, published in the journal Science on Thursday, an international research group determined the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by the oceans.
What they found: The study finds that the oceans absorbed more than 100 billion tons of CO2 between 1994 and 2007, which represents about a third of total emissions during that period.
- This shows that the oceans barely continued increasing rates of man-made emissions during the 1994-2007 period.
- While the global share of emissions absorbed by the oceans has not changed, the speed with which they absorb carbon dioxide has quadrupled between 1
"If it were not for this absorption from the oceans, the atmospheric CO2 concentration would be 480 ppm and global atmospheric temperatures would be considerably warmer," study co-author Richard Feely of NOAA tells Axios.
"This means that the ocean has provided humanity with an ecosystem service that can be valued at over 1 trillion dollars."
– co-author of the study Nicolas Gruber of ETH in Zurich tells Axios, assuming a carbon price of $ 10 per ton of CO2
Research also shows that the acidification of the oceans, which occurs as a result of chemical reactions when seawater absorbs CO2, is beginning to affect marine life well below the surface.
- of the industrial revolution, the pH of ocean surface waters has decreased by about 0.11 pH units, says Feely. The greatest decrease in pH is at high latitudes.
- The acidification of the oceans represents a serious threat to the calcifying organisms, such as butterflies and marine mussels, with indications that the problems are already revealing themselves in the ecosystems.
Another  recently published in Geology provides a new long-term history of how carbon accumulated in deep-water sediments throughout geological time. Carbon is absorbed just as dead diatoms and plankton descend through the water column, accumulating slowly but constantly as "marine snow" on the seabed.
"The more the ocean becomes acid, the smaller the volume of dead carbonate plankton shells that sink through the water column that will reach the seabed without completely dissolving during the descent", he tells Axios study co-author Dietmar Muller.
"In other words, we are continually reducing the oceans' ability to store atmospheric CO2 in deep-water sediments."