National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 1999

Satellite sea surface temperature: A powerful tool for interpreting in situ pCO2 measurements in the equatorial Pacific Ocean

Boutin, J., J. Etcheto, Y. Dandonneau, D.C.E. Bakker, R.A. Feely, H.Y. Inoue, M. Ishii, R.D. Ling, P.D. Nightingale, N. Metzl, and R. Wanninkhof

Tellus, 51B(2), 490–508, doi: 10.1034/j.1600-0889.1999.00025.x (1999)

In order to determine the seasonal and interannual variability of the CO2 released to the atmosphere from the equatorial Pacific, we have developed pCO2-temperature relationships based upon shipboard oceanic CO2 partial pressure measurements, pCO2, and satellite sea surface temperature, SST, measurements. We interpret the spatial variability in pCO2 with the help of the SST imagery. In the eastern equatorial Pacific, at 5°S, pCO2 variations of up to 100 µatm are caused by undulations in the southern boundary of the equatorial upwelled waters. These undulations appear to be periodic with a phase and wavelength comparable to tropical instability waves, TIW, observed at the northern boundary of the equatorial upwelling. Once the pCO2 signature of the TIW is removed from the Alize II cruise measurements in January 1991, the equatorial pCO2 data exhibit a diel cycle of about 10 µatm with maximum values occurring at night. In the western equatorial Pacific, the variability in pCO2 is primarily governed by the displacement of the boundary between warm pool waters, where air-sea CO2 fluxes are weak, and equatorial upwelled waters which release high CO2 fluxes to the atmosphere. We detect this boundary using satellite SST maps. East of the warm pool, ΔP is related to SST and SST anomalies. The 1985-1997 CO2 flux is computed in a 5° wide latitudinal band as a combination of ΔP and CO2 exchange coefficient, K, deduced from satellite wind speeds, U. It exhibits up to a factor 2 seasonal variation caused by K-seasonal variation and a large interannual variability, a factor 5 variation between 1987 and 1988. The interannual variability is primarily driven by displacements of the warm pool that makes the surface area of the outgassing region variable. The contribution of ΔP to the flux variability is about half the contribution of K. The mean CO2 flux computed using either the Liss and Merlivat (1986) or the Wanninkhof (1992) K-U parametrization amounts to 0.11 GtC yr−1 or to 0.18 GtC yr−1, respectively. The error in the integrated flux, without taking into account the uncertainty on the K-U parametrization, is less than 31%.

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