CONTACT: Galen McKinley, (608) 262-4817, [email protected]
MADISON – Since pre-industrial times, the world’s oceans have absorbed 41 percent of the carbon dioxide humans have released into the atmosphere. The remainder stays airborne, warming the planet.
The relationship between our future carbon dioxide emissions and future climate change depends strongly on the capacity of the ocean-carbon sink. How efficiently will it continue to soak up what we emit?
That is a question climate scientists have so far been unable to answer because of limited opportunities to take robust ocean-atmosphere measurements around the planet and because of inherent challenges in existing computer models.
In a new paper published in Nature Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016, a research team headed by Galen McKinley, professor in the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, describes the best modeling approach to date for arriving at an answer to this and other crucial climate questions.
“It’s an evolution in our ability to use climate models to make predictions, particularly on timescales of a few decades,” says McKinley, also an affiliate of the Center for Climatic Research at UW-Madison’s Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies.
This improved predictive capacity could allow scientists to better understand what changes to expect, where to expect them, and their magnitude. It could also lead to better allocation of limited resources to enhance monitoring efforts, or to the creation of specific policies to mitigate change.