Large icebergs help control global warming

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They play an essential role in the process of absorption of carbon dioxide in the oceans

Journal Nature Geoscience

Large icebergs play an essential role in the process of absorbing carbon dioxide (CO2) in the oceans, which contributes to contain global warming, according to a study published on January 12, 2016 in the journal Nature Geoscience.

From satellite imagery analysis, British scientists have determined that melted water from icebergs, rich in iron and other nutrients stimulates the growth of phytoplankton, aquatic organisms capable of accumulating CO2 during photosynthesis.

The study, conducted by experts at the British University of Sheffield, estimates that the process launched by large floating ice chips is responsible for 20% of the absorption of carbon dioxide in the Antarctic Ocean.

Geophysicist Grant Bigg and his group studied color changes on the surface of the water after passing icebergs over 18 kilometers, an indicator of phytoplankton productivity.

From 175 images taken between 2003 and 2013, researchers found that these large ice formations leave a trail of biological activity that persists at least a month after their passage.

Scientists believe that the Antarctic Ocean is a key player in the global carbon dioxide cycle, accounting for approximately 10% of CO2 absorption on the planet through biological and chemical processes, including phytoplankton photosynthesis.

Nevertheless, previous studies had suggested that ocean fertilization produced by icebergs is a minor contribution to the growth of these organisms.

“This new analysis reveals that giant icebergs are essential in the carbon cycle of the Antarctic Ocean. We have detected substantially elevated levels of chlorophyll within a range of four to ten times the length of icebergs,” Bigg said in a statement of British university.

The study stresses that the effect of the passage of large icebergs exceeds by an order of magnitude to that produced by smaller pieces of ice.
For Bigg, “if births of icebergs increase during this century, as planned.

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