National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2002

Global sea-air CO2 flux based on climatological surface ocean pCO2, and seasonal biological and temperature effects

Takahashi, T., S.C. Sutherland, C. Sweeney, A. Poisson, N. Metzl, B. Tilbrook, N. Bates, R. Wanninkhof, R.A. Feely, C. Sabine, J. Olafsson, and Y. Nojiri

Deep-Sea Res. Pt. II, 49(9–10), 1601–1622, doi: 10.1016/S0967-0645(02)00003-6 (2002)

Based on about 940,000 measurements of surface-water pCO2 obtained since the International Geophysical Year of 1956-59, the climatological, monthly distribution of pCO2 in the global surface waters representing mean non-El Niño conditions has been obtained with a spatial resolution of 4°×5° for a reference year 1995. The monthly and annual net sea-air CO2 flux has been computed using the NCEP/NCAR 41-year mean monthly wind speeds. An annual net uptake flux of CO2 by the global oceans has been estimated to be 2.2 (+22% or -19%) Pg C yr−1 using the (wind speed)2 dependence of the CO2 gas transfer velocity of Wanninkhof (J. Geophys. Res. 97 (1992) 7373). The errors associated with the wind-speed variation have been estimated using one standard deviation (about ±2 m s−1) from the mean monthly wind speed observed over each 4°×5° pixel area of the global oceans. The new global uptake flux obtained with the Wanninkhof (wind speed)2 dependence is compared with those obtained previously using a smaller number of measurements, about 250,000 and 550,000, respectively, and are found to be consistent within ±0.2 Pg C yr−1. This estimate for the global ocean uptake flux is consistent with the values of 2.0 ± 0.6 Pg C yr−1 estimated on the basis of the observed changes in the atmospheric CO2 and oxygen concentrations during the 1990s (Nature 381 (1996) 218; Science 287 (2000) 2467). However, if the (wind speed)3 dependence of Wanninkhof and McGillis (Res. Lett. 26 (1999) 1889) is used instead, the annual ocean uptake as well as the sensitivity to wind-speed variability is increased by about 70%.

A zone between 40° and 60° latitudes in both the northern and southern hemispheres is found to be a major sink for atmospheric CO2. In these areas, poleward-flowing warm waters meet and mix with the cold subpolar waters rich in nutrients. The pCO2 in the surface water is decreased by the cooling effect on warm waters and by the biological drawdown of pCO2 in subpolar waters. High wind speeds over these low pCO2 waters increase the CO2 uptake rate by the ocean waters.

The pCO2 in surface waters of the global oceans varies seasonally over a wide range of about 60% above and below the current atmospheric pCO2 level of about 360 µatm. A global map showing the seasonal amplitude of surface-water pCO2 is presented. The effect of biological utilization of CO2 is differentiated from that of seasonal temperature changes using seasonal temperature data. The seasonal amplitude of surface-water pCO2 in high-latitude waters located poleward of about 40° latitude and in the equatorial zone is dominated by the biology effect, whereas that in the temperate gyre regions is dominated by the temperature effect. These effects are about 6 months out of phase. Accordingly, along the boundaries between these two regimes, they tend to cancel each other, forming a zone of small pCO2 amplitude. In the oligotrophic waters of the northern and southern temperate gyres, the biology effect is about 35 µatm on average. This is consistent with the biological export flux estimated by Laws et al. (Glob. Biogeochem. Cycles 14 (2000) 1231). Small areas such as the northwestern Arabian Sea and the eastern equatorial Pacific, where seasonal upwelling occurs, exhibit intense seasonal changes in pCO2 due to the biological drawdown of CO2.

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