National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2009

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

Doney, S.C., I. Lima, R.A. Feely, D.M. Glover, K. Lindsey, N. Mahowald, J.K. Moore, and R. Wanninkhof

Deep-Sea Res. II, 56(8–10), 640–655, doi: 10.1016/j.dsr2.2008.12.006 (2009)

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 pCO2, 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 pCO2 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 pCO2 variability in the tropics, while in the subtropics, thermal solubility contributes positively to surface-water pCO2 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.

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