Melting Ice May Help Soak Up CO2

Icebergs may deposit nourishing iron into ocean, helping carbon-sucking plankton
By Drew Nelles,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 7, 2008 4:49 PM CST
A group of icebergs melt off Collins Glaciers in front of King George's island in Antarctica.   (AP Photo/Roberto Candia)
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(Newser) – Melting ice sheets may end up helping the planet battle global warming, the Guardian reports. Scientists say that broken ice in the Antarctic disperses iron, which fertilizes carbon-absorbing plankton and helps reverse some effects of climate change. “We see the rapid ice loss in Antarctica as one obvious sign of climate warming," said one scientist, "but could it be the Earth's attempt to save us from global warming?”

Researchers estimate that the melting ice releases more than 120,000 metric tonnes of iron into the Southern Ocean annually, which could nourish enough plankton to remove 2.6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide—equal to the annual emissions from India and Japan. But how much of that carbon eventually returns to the atmosphere? "We simply don't know the answer to that," one scientist said.