Mechanisms governing interannual variability in upper-ocean inorganic carbon system and air–sea CO2 fluxes: Physical climate and atmospheric dust Academic Article uri icon


  • We quantify the mechanisms governing interannual variability in the global, upper-ocean inorganic carbon system using a hindcast simulation (1979-2004) of an ecosystem-biogeochemistry model forced with time-evolving atmospheric physics and dust deposition. We analyze the variability of three key, interrelated metrics-air-sea CO2 flux, surface-water carbon dioxide partial pressure pCO(2), and upper-ocean dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) inventory-presenting for each metric global spatial maps of the root mean square (rms) of anomalies from a model monthly climatology. The contribution of specific driving factors is diagnosed using Taylor expansions and linear regression analysis. The major regions of variability occur in the Southern Ocean, tropical Indo-Pacific, and Northern Hemisphere temperate and subpolar latitudes. Ocean circulation is the dominant factor driving variability over most of the ocean, modulating surface dissolved inorganic carbon that in turn alters surface-water pCO(2) and air-sea CO2 flux variability (global integrated anomaly rms of 0.34 Pg C yr(-1)). Biological export and thermal solubility effects partially damp circulation-driven pCO(2) variability in the tropics, while in the subtropics, thermal solubility contributes positively to surface-water pCO(2) and air-sea CO2 flux variability. Gas transfer and net freshwater inputs induce variability in the air-sea CO2 flux in some specific regions. A component of air-sea CO2 flux variability (global integrated anomaly rms of 0.14 Pg C yr(-1)) arises from variations in biological export production induced by variations in atmospheric iron deposition downwind of dust source regions. Beginning in the mid-1990s, reduced global dust deposition generates increased air-sea CO2 outgassing in the Southern Ocean, consistent with trends derived from atmospheric CO2 inversions. (C) 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

publication date

  • April 2009