National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2009

Features of coastal upwelling regions that determine net air-sea CO2 flux

Ianson, D., R.A. Feely, C.L. Sabine, and L.W. Juranek

J. Oceanogr., 65(5), 677–687, doi: 10.1007/s10872-009-0059-z (2009)

The influence of the coastal ocean on global net annual air-sea CO2 fluxes remains uncertain. However, it is well known that air-sea pCO2 disequilibria can be large (ocean pCO2 ranging from ~400 µatm above atmospheric saturation to ~250 µatm below) in eastern boundary currents, and it has been hypothesized that these regions may be an appreciable net carbon sink. In addition it has been shown that the high productivity in these regions (responsible for the exceptionally low surface pCO2) can cause nutrients and inorganic carbon to become more concentrated in the lower layer of the water column over the shelf relative to adjacent open ocean waters of the same density. This paper explores the potential role of the winter season in determining the net annual CO2 flux in temperate zone eastern boundary currents, using the results from a box model. The model is parameterized and forced to represent the northernmost part of the upwelling region on the North American Pacific coast. Model results are compared to the few summer data that exist in that region. The model is also used to determine the effect that upwelling and downwelling strength have on the net annual CO2 flux. Results show that downwelling may play an important role in limiting the amount of CO2 outgassing that occurs during winter. Finally data from three distinct regions on the Pacific coast are compared to highlight the importance of upwelling and downwelling strength in determining carbon fluxes in eastern boundary currents and to suggest that other features, such as shelf width, are likely to be important.

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