Inorganic carbon and water masses in the Irminger Sea since 1991 (update)

The subpolar region in the North Atlantic is a major sink for anthropogenic carbon. While the storage rates show large interannual variability related to atmospheric forcing, less is known about variability in the natural dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) and the combined impact of variations in the two components on the total DIC inventories. Here, data from 15 cruises in the Irminger Sea covering the 24-year period between 1991 and 2015 were used to determine changes in total DIC and its natural and anthropogenic components. Based on the results of an extended optimum multiparameter analysis (eOMP), the inventory changes are discussed in relation to the distribution and evolution of the main water masses. The inventory of DIC increased by 1.43 ± 0.17 mol m−2 yr−1 over the period, mainly driven by the increase in anthropogenic carbon (1.84 ± 0.16 mol m−2 yr−1) but partially offset by a loss of natural DIC (−0.57 ± 0.22 mol m−2 yr−1). Changes in the carbon storage rate can be driven by concentration changes in the water column, for example due to the ageing of water masses, or by changes in the distribution of water masses with different concentrations either by local formation or advection. A decomposition of the trends into their main drivers showed that variations in natural DIC inventories are mainly driven by changes in the layer thickness of the main water masses, while anthropogenic carbon is most affected by concentration changes. The storage rates of anthropogenic carbon are sensitive to data selection, while changes in DIC inventory show a robust signal on short timescales associated with the strength of convection.

Fröb F., Olsen A., Pérez F. F., García-Ibáñez M. I., Jeansson E., Omar A. & Lauvset S. K., 2018. Inorganic carbon and water masses in the Irminger Sea since 1991. Biogeosciences 15: 51-72. Article.


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