PARIS: Oceans that grow more acidic through man’s fossil fuel burning emissions, can amplify global warming by releasing less of a gas that helps shield Earth from radiation, a study said on Sunday (Monday in Manila).
And the authors warned the potentially vast effect they uncovered is not currently factored into climate change projections.
Scientists say that man’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions contribute to planetary warming by letting the Sun’s heat through the atmosphere but trapping heat energy reflected back from Earth, so creating a greenhouse effect.
They also lower the pH balance of the world’s oceans, making them more acidic, and hamper production of dimethyl sulphide (DMS), a sulphur compound, by plankton, said the study.
DMS released into the atmosphere helps reflect incoming radiation from the Sun, reducing surface temperatures on Earth.
Using climate simulations, the team said an 18-percent decline in DMS emissions by 2100 could contribute as much as 0.48 degrees Celsius (0.9 deg Fahrenheit) to the global temperature.
“To our knowledge, we are the first to highlight the potential climate impact due to changes in the global sulphur cycle triggered by ocean acidification,” the authors wrote.
“Our result emphasizes that this potential climate impact mechanism of ocean acidification should be considered in projections of future climate change.”
They warned that ocean acidification may also have other, yet unseen, impacts on marine biology that may provoke further declines in DMS emissions.