Variability and stability of anthropogenic CO2 in Antarctic Bottom Waters observed in the Indian sector of the Southern Ocean, 1978-2018

Antarctic bottom waters (AABWs) are known as a long term sink for anthropogenic CO2 (Cant) but is hardly quantified because of the scarcity of the observations, specifically at an interannual scale. We present in this manuscript an original dataset combining 40 years of carbonate system observations in the Indian sector of the Southern Ocean (Enderby Basin) to evaluate and interpret the interannual variability of Cant in the AABW. This investigation is based on regular observations collected at the same location (63° E/56.5° S) in the frame of the French observatory OISO from 1998 to 2018 extended by GEOSECS and INDIGO observations (1978, 1985 and 1987).

At this location the main sources of AABW sampled is the fresh and younger Cape Darnley bottom water (CDBW) and the Weddell Sea deep water (WSDW). Our calculations reveal that Cant concentrations increased significantly in AABW, from about +7 µmol.kg-1 in 1978-1987 to +13 µmol.kg-1 18 in 2010-2018. This is comparable to previous estimates in other SO basins, with the exception of bottom waters close to their formation sites where Cant concentrations are about twice as large. Our analysis shows that the CT and Cant increasing rates in AABW are about the same over the period 1978-2018, and we conclude that the long-term change in CT is mainly due to the uptake of anthropogenic CO2 in the different formation regions. This is however modulated by significant interannual to pluriannual variability associated with variations in hydrological (ϴ, S) and biogeochemical (CT, AT, O2) properties. A surprising result is the apparent stability of Cant concentrations in recent years despite the increase in CT and the gradual acceleration of atmospheric CO2.

The Cant sequestration by AABWs is more variable than expected and depends on a complex combination of physical, chemical and biological processes at the formation sites and during the transit of the different AABWs. The interannual variability at play in AABW needs to be carefully considered on the extrapolated estimation of Cant sequestration based on sparse observations over several years.

Mahieu L., Monaco C. L., Metzl N., Fin J. & Mignon C., 2020. Variability and stability of anthropogenic CO2 in Antarctic Bottom Waters observed in the Indian sector of the Southern Ocean, 1978-2018. Ocean Science Discussion. Article.

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