Twenty-first century ocean warming, acidification, deoxygenation, and upper ocean nutrient decline from CMIP6 model projections

Anthropogenic climate change leads to ocean warming, acidification, deoxygenation and reductions in near-surface nutrient concentrations, all of which are expected to affect marine ecosystems. Here we assess projections of these drivers of environmental change over the twenty-first century from Earth system models (ESMs) participating in the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 6 (CMIP6) that were forced under the CMIP6 Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs). Projections are compared to those from the previous generation (CMIP5) forced under the Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs). 10 CMIP5 and 13 CMIP6 models are used in the two multi-model ensembles. Under the high-emission scenario SSP5–8.5, the model mean change (2080–2099 mean values relative to 1870–1899) in sea surface temperature, surface pH, subsurface (100–600 m) oxygen concentration and euphotic (0–100 m) nitrate concentration is +3.48 ± 0.78 °C, −0.44 ± 0.005, −13.27 ± 5.28 mmol m−3 and −1.07 ± 0.45 mmol m−3, respectively. Under the low-emission, high-mitigation scenario SSP1–2.6, the corresponding changes are +1.42 ± 0.32 °C, −0.16 ± 0.002, −6.36 ± 2.92 mmol m−3 and −0.53 ± 0.23 mmol m−3. Projected exposure of the marine ecosystem to these drivers of ocean change depends largely on the extent of future emissions, consistent with previous studies. The Earth system models in CMIP6 generally project greater surface warming, acidification, deoxygenation and euphotic nitrate reductions than those from CMIP5 under comparable radiative forcing, with no reduction in inter-model uncertainties. Under the high-emission CMIP5 scenario RCP8.5, the corresponding changes in sea surface temperature, surface pH, subsurface oxygen and euphotic nitrate concentration are +3.04 ± 0.62 °C, −0.38 ± 0.005, −9.51 ± 2.13 mmol m−3 and −0.66 ± 0.49 mmol m−3, respectively. The greater surface acidification in CMIP6 is primarily a consequence of the SSPs having higher associated atmospheric CO2 concentrations than their RCP analogues. The increased projected warming results from a general increase in the climate sensitivity of CMIP6 models relative to those of CMIP5. This enhanced warming results in greater increases in upper ocean stratification in CMIP6 projections, which contributes to greater reductions in euphotic nitrate and subsurface oxygen ventilation.

Kwiatkowski L., Torres O., Bopp L., Aumont O., Chamberlain M., Christian J., Dunne J. P., Gehlen M., Ilyina T., John J. G., Lenton A., Li H., Lovenduski N. S., Orr J. C., Palmieri J., Schwinger J., Séférian R., Stock C. A., Tagliabue A., Takano Y., Tjiputra J., Toyama K., Tsujino H., Watanabe M., Yamamoto A., Yoo A. & Ziehn T., 2020. Twenty-first century ocean warming, acidification, deoxygenation, and upper ocean nutrient decline from CMIP6 model projections. Biogeosciences Discussions. Article.

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