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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 February 2008, 14:17 GMT
Sea research for climate change
Dr Tom Rippeth with the Prince Madog
Dr Rippeth said the research should help predict climate change
Oceanographers are to measure how seas absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in order to understand and predict climate change.

Researchers say currently only about half of man-made CO2 emissions stay in the atmosphere, with the remaining 50% absorbed by oceans and land.

The study will look at how plankton, which absorbs CO2, is affected by wind driven nutrients in shallower seas.

Bangor University has been awarded 640,000 for the research.

Waters, such as the Irish and North seas which are 'shelf seas' and less than 200m deep, will be studied as part of the research.

The shallower seas - which make up just 7% of the earth's oceans - play a "significant role" in absorbing carbon dioxide from the earth's atmosphere, said Dr Tom Rippeth from the university.

It won't help us combat climate change but help us understand and predict what is going to happen
Dr Tom Rippeth, Bangor University

Plankton in the sea absorbs carbon dioxide and the nutrients needed for it to grow are driven into the surface layer of the water by wind.

The study - using the university research vessel the Prince Madog, and undertaken with the Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory in Liverpool - will be conducted during the summer months over three and a half years.

Samples of water will be analysed to see how much nutrients and plankton is contained, especially is times of low pressure weather systems which create ocean turbulence.

Dr Rippeth said: "We are currently getting a 50% 'discount' on the climatic impact of our fossil fuel emissions.

Understanding

"Unfortunately, we have no guarantee that the 50% discount will continue, and if it disappears we will feel the full climatic brunt of our unrelenting emission of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels."

The research would, he added, help understand how, and by how much, the seas were involved in this absorption of carbon dioxide.

"It won't help us combat climate change but help us understand and predict what is going to happen," he added.

The UK's Natural Environmental Research Council provided the funding for the research.



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