A Temporary Solution to Global Warming

Ocean's crust might store many centuries of industrial CO2

Dec 5, 2013
Outside Magazine

Like deep-water gas detectives, researchers from the University of Southampton were able to pinpoint parts of the ocean crust where a boat-load of carbon dioxide might be stored. If their calculations are correct, fossil fuels found in this amount—many centuries worth— might forestall further increases in global warming, Science Recorder reports.

But wait, how? According to the University of Southampton, the burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas has resulted in dramatic increases in CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere which cause climate change and ocean acidification. If the newly-discovered pieces of the ocean crust actually exist, scientists hope they might capture CO2 and put it there for, um, safe keeping.

The study, which was originally published in Geophysical Research Letters found five potential locations beneath the ocean's crust ranging in size from 2,000 square miles to nearly 1.5 million square miles.

But how do they know it might be there? Chiara Marieni, a PhD student based at the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton figured out that in high pressures and low temperatures like those found in the darkest depths of the big blue, CO2 is denser and heavier than seawater and exists in liquid form. The basalt rock which makes up a large portion of the Earth's crust, may also react with CO2, effectively trapping the gas into a solid calcium carbonate beneath the surface and preventing the carbon dioxide's release into the oceans or atmosphere.

With this new understanding of the properties of CO2, Marieni and her colleagues were able to generate a global map of the Earth’s ocean floor that otherwise wouldn’t have been made. That’s some deep research.