Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, Ph.D.

I study people, technology, and the worlds they make

Ocean carbon absorption rates down

I’m no scientist, but I doubt that this can be very good:

Ocean Plant Life Slows Down and Absorbs Less Carbon

Plant life in the world’s oceans has become less productive since the early 1980s, absorbing less carbon, which may in turn impact the Earth’s carbon cycle, according to a study that combines NASA satellite data with NOAA surface observations of marine plants.

This matters because oceans are major carbon “sinks,” natural features that trap and hold carbon that otherwise would be running around in the atmosphere.


  1. Right, this doesn’t sound good at all. If true, it matters a whole lot–and not only because phytoplankton remove CO2 from the atmosphere. These lovely miniplants are the foundation of the food chain. Fewer phytoplankton ultimately means fewer fish.

    Also, the first sentence in the NOAA release is poorly worded: it’s not accurate to say that “plant life…has become less productive.” Rather, NOAA has observed a decrease in the number of phytoplankton, not a decrease in the photosynthetic capacity of a unit number of phytoplankton. (Perhaps NOAA would like to hire me…)

  2. I wondered about that line. They should definitely hire you on!

Comments are closed.

© 2019 Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, Ph.D.

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑