The ocean sucks up heat-trapping carbon dioxide (CO2) building up in our atmosphere with help from tiny plankton.
Like plants on land, plankton convert CO2 into organic carbon via photosynthesis and then can sink into the deep ocean, carrying carbon with them. They decompose when bacteria convert their remains back into CO2.
This "biological pump," if it operated 100 percent efficiently, would mean nearly every atom of carbon drawn into the ocean would be converted to organic carbon, sink into the deep ocean, and remain sequestered from the atmosphere for millennia. But like hail stones that melt before reaching the ground, some carbon never makes it to the deep ocean, allowing CO2 to leak back into the upper ocean and ultimately exchange with the atmosphere.