Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

A 'great fizz' of carbon dioxide was produced at the end of the last ice age

Date:
August 26, 2010
Source:
Rutgers University
Summary:
Imagine loosening the screw-top of a soda bottle and hearing the carbon dioxide begin to escape. Then imagine taking the cap off quickly, and seeing the beverage foam and fizz out of the bottle. Then, imagine the pressure equalizing and the beverage being ready to drink. Marine scientists say that something similar happened over a 1,000 year period after the end of the last ice age.

Imagine opening a soda can and hearing the carbon dioxide begin to escape. Then imagine opening it quickly, and seeing the beverage foam and fizz out of the bottle. Then, imagine the pressure equalizing and the beverage being ready to drink. Marine scientists say that something very similar happened on a grand scale over a 1,000 year period after the end of the last ice age.
Credit: iStockphoto/Joshua Blake

Imagine loosening the screw-top of a soda bottle and hearing the carbon dioxide begin to escape. Then imagine taking the cap off quickly, and seeing the beverage foam and fizz out of the bottle. Then, imagine the pressure equalizing and the beverage being ready to drink.

Related Articles


Rutgers marine scientist Elisabeth Sikes and her colleagues say that something very similar happened on a grand scale over a 1,000 year period after the end of the last ice age -- or glaciation, as scientists call it.

According to a paper published recently in the journal Nature, the last ice age featured a decrease in the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide and an increase in the atmospheric carbon 14, the isotope that guides scientists in evaluating the rate of decay of everything from shells to trees.

In recent years, other researchers have suggested that some of that carbon dioxide flowed back into the northern hemisphere rather than being entirely released into the atmosphere in the southern hemisphere.

Sikes and her colleagues disagree. Their data, taken from cores of ocean sediment pulled up from 600 meters to 1,200 meters below the South Pacific and Southern Ocean, suggest that this "de-gassing" was regional, not global. This has important implications for understanding what controls where and how CO2 comes out of the ocean, and how fast -- or, to put it another way, what tightens or loosens the bottle cap.

Carbon dioxide and carbon 14 in the atmosphere and ocean are on opposite ends of an environmental pulley. When the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increases, the level of carbon 14 drops, and vice versa. That's chemistry and ocean circulation. Biology also helps, because photosynthesizing organisms use carbon dioxide, then die and take it with them to the bottom. During the last ice age, the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was lower because much of it was trapped in the bottom of the oceans.

The ventilation of the deep Southern Ocean -- the circulation of oxygen through the deep waters -- slowed considerably during the last ice age, causing carbon dioxide to build up. Sikes and her co-authors report that, as the ice began to melt, the oceanic bottle cap began to loosen, and the carbon dioxide began to leak back into the atmosphere. Then, as warming intensified, the cap came off, and the carbon dioxide escaped so quickly, and so thoroughly, that Sikes and her colleagues could find very little trace of it in the carbon 14 they examined in their samples.

Eventually, just like the carbonated drink in a bottle, equilibrium was established between the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the carbon dioxide in the ocean. Today, the carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere has been rising in the past 200 years pushing the levels in the ocean up. Human activity is responsible for that rise and the rise of other "greenhouse gases." Some people have suggested we can pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and force it back down to the bottom of the oceans by manipulating the biology -- growing algae, for instance, which would increase photosynthesis and send carbon dioxide to the bottom when the organisms die. But Sikes' results suggest that global warming could eventually result in another great fizz.

Sikes' co-authors are Kathryn Rose, research associate at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Woods Hole, Mass.; Thomas P. Guilderson of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif.; Phil Shane of the University of Auckland, in Auckland, New Zealand; Tessa Hill and Howard T. Spero of the University of California, Davis; and Rainer Zahn of the Catalan Institute of Advanced Study at the Autonomous University of Barcelona in Spain.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Kathryn A. Rose, Elisabeth L. Sikes, Thomas P. Guilderson, Phil Shane, Tessa M. Hill, Rainer Zahn & Howard J. Spero. Upper-ocean-to-atmosphere radiocarbon offsets imply fast deglacial carbon dioxide release. Nature, 2010; 466 (7310): 1093 DOI: 10.1038/nature09288

Cite This Page:

Rutgers University. "A 'great fizz' of carbon dioxide was produced at the end of the last ice age." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 August 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100825131443.htm>.
Rutgers University. (2010, August 26). A 'great fizz' of carbon dioxide was produced at the end of the last ice age. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100825131443.htm
Rutgers University. "A 'great fizz' of carbon dioxide was produced at the end of the last ice age." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100825131443.htm (accessed November 28, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Friday, November 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Japan's Mt. Aso Volcano Spews Rocks

Raw: Japan's Mt. Aso Volcano Spews Rocks

AP (Nov. 28, 2014) — A volcano in southern Japan is spewing volcanic magma rocks. A regional weather observatory says this could be Mt. Aso's first magma eruption in 22 years. (Nov. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Find Invisible Space Shield Protecting Earth

Scientists Find Invisible Space Shield Protecting Earth

Newsy (Nov. 27, 2014) — An invisible barrier is keeping dangerous super fast electrons from interfering with our atmosphere, but scientists aren't entirely sure how. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bolivian Recycling Initiative Turns Plastic Waste Into School Furniture

Bolivian Recycling Initiative Turns Plastic Waste Into School Furniture

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 26, 2014) — Innovative recycling project in La Paz separates city waste and converts plastic garbage into school furniture made from 'plastiwood'. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Blu-Ray Discs Getting Second Run As Solar Panels

Blu-Ray Discs Getting Second Run As Solar Panels

Newsy (Nov. 26, 2014) — Researchers at Northwestern University are repurposing Blu-ray movies for better solar panel technology thanks to the discs' internal structures. 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