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The Ocean Frontier Institute's solution for more accurate measurement of the ocean’s ability to continue to absorb carbon

The ocean is the most important global storage depot on Earth: it stores hundreds of times the heat and 50 times more carbon than the atmosphere and takes up more carbon than all the rainforests combined.

A conversation: Our net-zero future depends on the ocean

The North Atlantic Ocean remains the world’s most intense carbon sink, currently providing a critical carbon absorption function for the entire globe through a process known as the "biogeochemical carbon pump" or BCP. However, the carbon-absorbing function of the BCP remains critically under-observed.

The carbon-absorption function of the BCP in the North Atlantic may undergo potentially rapid changes as the Arctic melts, the Atlantic warms, and the two oceans start to exchange rapidly through the "Arctic Gateways."

The slowing of the Gulf Stream would also impact the BCP – but how? As terrestrial emissions decrease, there are growing scientific concerns about whether the ocean will remain a carbon sink. If the ocean flips to a net emitter as terrestrial emissions decline, the planet is not prepared for the implications.

Measuring ocean absorption will inform the critical natural timescale against which we can measure our effectiveness in battling climate change. Fluctuations in the ocean "carbon sink" - the amount of carbon the ocean can remove from the atmosphere - will ultimately determine the urgency with which our governments need to act in order to successfully reach net zero.