A regional hindcast model simulating ecosystem dynamics, inorganic carbon chemistry and ocean acidification in the Gulf of Alaska (update)

The coastal ecosystem of the Gulf of Alaska (GOA) is especially vulnerable to the effects of ocean acidification and climate change that can only be understood within the context of the natural variability of physical and chemical conditions. Controlled by its complex bathymetry, iron enriched freshwater discharge, and wind and solar radiation, the GOA is a highly dynamic system that exhibits large inorganic carbon variability from subseasonal to interannual timescales. This variability is poorly understood due to the lack of observations in this expansive and remote region. To improve our conceptual understanding of the system, we developed a new model set-up for the GOA that couples the three-dimensional Regional Oceanic Model System (ROMS), the Carbon, Ocean Biogeochemistry and Lower Trophic (COBALT) ecosystem model, and a high resolution terrestrial hydrological model. Here, we evaluate the model on seasonal to interannual timescales using the best available inorganic carbon observations. The model was particularly successful in reproducing observed aragonite oversaturation and undersaturation of near-bottom water in May and September, respectively. The largest deficiency of the model is perhaps its inability to adequately simulate spring time surface inorganic carbon chemistry, as it overestimates surface dissolved inorganic carbon, which translates into an underestimation of the surface aragonite saturation state at this time. We also use the model to describe the seasonal cycle and drivers of inorganic carbon parameters along the Seward Line transect in under-sampled months. As such, model output suggests that a majority of the near-bottom water along the Seward Line is seasonally under-saturated with regard to aragonite between June and January, as a result of upwelling and remineralization. Such an extensive period of reoccurring aragonite undersaturation may be harmful to CO2 sensitive organisms. Furthermore, the influence of freshwater not only decreases aragonite saturation state in coastal surface waters in summer and fall, but simultaneously also decreases surface pCO2, thereby decoupling the aragonite saturation state from pCO2. The full seasonal cycle and geographic extent of the GOA region is undersampled, and our model results give new and important insights for months of the year and areas that lack in situ inorganic carbon observations.

Hauri C., Schultz C., Hedstrom K., Danielson S., Irving B., Doney S. C., Dussin R., Curchitser E. N., Hill D. F. & Stock C. A., 2020. A regional hindcast model simulating ecosystem dynamics, inorganic carbon chemistry and ocean acidification in the Gulf of Alaska. Biogeosciences. Article.

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