How Does Carbon Dioxide Enter Sea Water?



  • Much of the carbon dioxide (CO2) on the Earth is not in the air, but instead stored in plants and soils and in the oceans. Carbon dioxide enters sea water by dissolving into it. This occurs in two main ways

Inorganic Carbon Dioxide Absorption

  • Carbon dioxide enters water by dissolving into it from the air. CO2 from the atmosphere dissolves more easily into cold water, where it can sink to deep levels of the ocean and remain there for thousands of years. Much of the CO2 dissolved from the atmosphere stays in the upper levels of the ocean, and can easily reenter the atmosphere as a result of evaporation.
    Carbon dioxide is also stored in icebergs, which release their CO2 as they melt.

Organic Carbon Dioxide Absorption

  • Organisms like phytoplankton absorb carbon dioxide as a result of photosynthesis; the larger a population of phytoplankton is, the more carbon dioxide it will store.
    Dead organisms like whales, fish and other marine life that sink to the bottom of the ocean release dissolved CO2 into the water as they decay.


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