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New research has emerged showing the world’s oceans are cooling the planet by emitting vast amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the atmosphere. These VOCs are not presently accounted for by climate models and may explain in part or in whole the growing gap between the temperatures predicted by the models and those actually measured by satellites, weather balloons, and surface temperature stations.
The VOC isoprene, which like all VOCs tends to cool the planet, has long been known to be produced by plants and trees on land and plankton in the sea. Now, atmospheric chemists from France and Germany have discovered huge amounts of isoprene are also produced in the “microlayer” at the top of the ocean by sunlight acting directly on floating chemicals – no life being necessary. Global models presently assume total emissions of isoprene from all life-form sources – trees, plants, plankton – of around 1.9 megatons per year. The new research shows “abiotic” processes occurring in the oceans release as much as 3.5 megatons on their own.