The role of river runoff in the Kara Sea surface layer acidification and carbonate system changes

This study aims to perform the results of the investigation of the Kara Sea carbonate system changes and the factors that determine it. The important feature of the Kara Sea water structure is strong stratification caused mainly by the Ob’ and Yenisey rivers discharge which is estimated as 81% of the total continental runoff to the sea. Occurring climate changes, as an increase in the total volume of the Arctic Ocean water (due to melting of glaciers, sea ice decline and river runoff increase), air temperature and CO2 concentration growth should affect greatly the Kara Sea carbonate system. However, riverine water influence seems to be the main driver of future acidification of the Kara Sea water due to permafrost thawing as it stores a great amount of buried carbon. An increase of carbon (mainly inorganic) flow to the sea will lead to carbonate equilibrium shift, oxidation of organic matter and release of CO2 that ultimately leads to a decrease in pH and therefore acidification. The area of the riverine plume depends on the amount of freshwater flowing into the sea and the conditions of the wind forcing. According to the data from Shirshov Institute cruises within the plume area aragonite saturation is below 1 that shows its state as acidified. Prevalence of pCO2 values in the freshened surface layer over the atmospheric shows that atmospheric carbon dioxide, apparently, cannot serve as the main driver for the acidification of the surface waters of the Kara Sea. At the shallow shelf to the north of the Ob’ Inlet mouth we observe acidification of the whole water column from surface to the bottom layer due to elevated riverine discharge and increase of flowing terrestrial carbon.

Polukhin A., in press. The role of river runoff in the Kara Sea surface layer acidification and carbonate system changes. Environmental Research Letters. Article.


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