How Choice of Depth Horizon Influences the Estimated Spatial Patterns and Global Magnitude of Ocean Carbon Export Flux Academic Article uri icon


  • Estimated rates and efficiency of ocean carbon export flux are sensitive to differences in the depth horizons used to define export, which often vary across methodological approaches. We evaluate sinking particulate organic carbon (POC) flux rates and efficiency (e?ratios) in a global earth system model, using a range of commonly used depth horizons: the seasonal mixed layer depth, the particle compensation depth, the base of the euphotic zone, a fixed depth horizon of 100 m, and the maximum annual mixed layer depth. Within this single dynamically consistent model framework, global POC flux rates vary by 30% and global e?ratios by 21% across different depth horizon choices. Zonal variability in POC flux and e?ratio also depends on the export depth horizon due to pronounced influence of deep winter mixing in subpolar regions. Efforts to reconcile conflicting estimates of export need to account for these systematic discrepancies created by differing depth horizon choices.

publication date

  • May 16, 2018