Aug 17, 2019 | Updated: 07:24 AM EDT

Melting Marine Snow Can Help Reduce Carbon Dioxide Emissions

Mar 14, 2019 08:16 AM EDT

ocean floor
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AUSTRALIA -- Sydney, Scientists revealed how carbonate accumulation from the melting of marine snow in the world's oceans have absorbed carbon dioxide over millennia and how it has continued to keep the planet cool for hundreds of years.

The study they published in Geology, gives us a new understanding of the future of the ocean and its capacity to store carbon dioxide to minimize the air pollution that's killing the environment. This capacity to absorb is vital in keeping the ocean warm and its acidity levels in control since the 1800s.

"Marine Snow is the debris of dead ocean organisms, particularly plankton and algae," said Dr. Adriana Dutkiewicz, the study's lead author.

"The ocean floor is basically covered with the remains of dead marine organisms. They give off more than 25% of the oxygen that the world breathes. In the process, they also form the Earth's largest carbon sink. Every organic particle that falls on the surface of the ocean floor produces a significant amount of oxygen that helps store away atmospheric carbon,"

Through time, these are compacted and form one of the best carbonate structures on Earth. They become what people call marine snow deposits that help rid the Earth of the deadly carbon dioxide.

The White Cliffs of Dover and structures similar to it that are found along the coastline of England act as carbon capture devices.

"The carbonates from the deep sea represents a huge volume of what practically keeps the Earth a livable place for human life. Even small changes in the sequestration of carbonate carbon that sinks on the ocean floor need to be studied to better understand the atmospheric condition of the Earth," Dr. Dutkiewicz said.

The team she headed found the amount of carbon stored on the ocean floor has increased over time. About 80 million years ago, only a megatonne of carbon ended on the ocean floor. Every year, each layer is added growing to about 200 megatonnes to date.

While the formation of carbonates in shallow waters decreased over time, the rise in the deposits in the deeper part of the ocean has grown significantly. Such increase created a growth in the total volume of carbonate sediments present in the oceans in the last 80 million years.

The study explored the data from drilled ocean core samples and compared it to those samples from the last 50 years. From there, they developed a dynamic model to describe the overall formation of carbon deposits. Their data included one from 120 million years ago dating back to the Cretaceous period.

Marine snow has formed a seemingly blanket on the seafloor that is like a hundred meters thick. The study includes looking into what the deposits are composed of, the factors that caused the deposits as well as the changes it had undergone through time.

"The enormous drilling in the ocean floor is an investment in itself. The data collected from it helps us have a more extensive understanding of what we are dealing with," Dr. Dutkiewicz said, "When the database has been filled up, more questions will be easily addressed."

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