Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New Isotope Cluster Could Lead To Better Understanding Of Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide

Date:
July 18, 2009
Source:
Yale University
Summary:
Scientists have discovered an unexpected concentration of a certain isotopic molecule in parts of the stratosphere that could have implications for understanding the carbon cycle and its response to climate change.

A team of researchers has discovered an unexpected concentration of a certain isotopic molecule in parts of the stratosphere that could have implications for understanding the carbon cycle and its response to climate change.

By analyzing samples of air taken from the stratosphere—the layer of Earth's atmosphere that sits between six and 30 miles above the surface—the team found a much higher concentration of 16O13C18O at high latitudes than expected.

The concentration of different isotopes is the result of different processes that carbon dioxide undergoes, such as in photosynthesis. As such, isotopes act as carbon dioxide "tracers," said Hagit Affek, an assistant professor of geology and geophysics at Yale University who previously worked as part of the lead team at the California Institute of Technology. "We use isotopes to 'balance the budget' of the carbon cycle. They basically act like labels that tell us where the carbon dioxide is coming from and where it's going."

While a postdoctoral associate at Caltech, Affek had found unexpectedly low concentrations of 16O13C18O in surface samples of air taken during the winter, and was looking for correspondingly low levels in the stratosphere. Instead, she was surprised to discover elevated concentrations in the stratosphere over the Earth's arctic region.

Although the scientists cannot yet explain the result, they propose two potential explanations. The first is that the high levels of the isotope cluster could be the result of air from the stratosphere mixing with air from the mesosphere—the layer above the stratosphere. The second is that an interaction between carbon dioxide and stratospheric water molecules could produce this abundance of 16O13C18O.

Either way, the results have implications for understanding the chemical reactions involving carbon dioxide—a greenhouse gas—that take place in the atmosphere, Affek said.

As an example, Affek pointed out that if the boreal forest absorbs more carbon dioxide than the rainforest, it could tell us something about where we should aim our conservation efforts. Also, as climate change warms the planet's oceans, they will be less able to take up carbon dioxide.

"We need to understand how much carbon dioxide we can produce before the oceans and plants can't absorb anymore," Affek said.

They report their finding in the July 14 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Other authors of the paper include Laurence Yeung, Weifu Guo, John Eiler, Mitchio Okumura (California Institute of Technology); Katherine Hoag, Aaron Wiegel, Kristie Boering (University of California, Berkeley); Elliot Atlas (University of Miami); Sue Schauffler (National Center for Atmospheric Research).


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Yale University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Yale University. "New Isotope Cluster Could Lead To Better Understanding Of Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 July 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090714124958.htm>.
Yale University. (2009, July 18). New Isotope Cluster Could Lead To Better Understanding Of Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090714124958.htm
Yale University. "New Isotope Cluster Could Lead To Better Understanding Of Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090714124958.htm (accessed October 1, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Earth Has Lost Half Its Vertebrate Wildlife Since 1970: WWF

Earth Has Lost Half Its Vertebrate Wildlife Since 1970: WWF

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) A new study published by the World Wide Fund for Nature found that more than half of the world's wildlife population has declined since 1970. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Seismic Activity Halts Recovery at Japan Volcano

Seismic Activity Halts Recovery at Japan Volcano

AP (Sep. 30, 2014) Rescuers were forced to suspend plans to recover at least two dozen bodies from near the summit of Mount Ontake in central Japan on Tuesday after increased seismic activity raised concern about the possibility of another eruption. (Sept. 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dolphins Might Use Earth's Magnetic Field As A GPS

Dolphins Might Use Earth's Magnetic Field As A GPS

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) A study released Monday suggests dolphins might be able to sense the Earth's magnetic field and possibly use it as a means of navigation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How To Battle Stink Bug Season

How To Battle Stink Bug Season

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) Homeowners in 33 states grapple with stink bugs moving indoors at this time of year. Here are a few tips to avoid stink bug infestations. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins