The biological and solubility pumps and their role in transporting atmospheric carbon to the deep sea.

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The biological and solubility pumps and their role in transporting atmospheric carbon to the deep sea.  (Figure courtesy of Oscar Schofield, Rutgers University.)

Climate Variability, Ocean Circulation, and Ecosystems

The ocean stores heat and carbon dioxide, and redistributes them via the large-scale circulation. Both the storage capacity and redistribution patterns are affected by climate change, and the ocean in turn may modify climate through various feedback mechanisms. Variability in ocean-atmosphere feedback on climate time scales may have profound affects on ecosystems through habitat changes (e.g. increasing mean temperature) or through modulation of shorter time scale phenomena (e.g. the El-Nino/Southern Oscillation cycle).

Examples of Key Scientific Questions

  • How will climate change affect the global ocean circulation?
  • How does the ocean store anthropogenic carbon?
  • How will ocean acidification affect marine ecosystems?
  • How do climate cycles influence regional food webs?