Spatial and temporal variability of the physical, carbonate and CO2 properties in the Southern Ocean surface waters during austral summer (2005-2019)


  • Latitudinal and temporal variability of physical and carbonate parameters are studied south of Tasmania.
  • Physical and carbonate parameters are impacted by mesoscale activity in the STZ and north of SAR.
  • The region is a sink of CO2 during summer with a mean CO2 flux of −4.0 ± 2.8 mmol m−2 d−1.
  • New empirical relationships for AT and CT during austral summer are determined.
  • The increase in CT and decrease in pH linked to rising anthropogenic emissions.


In situ measurements of sea surface temperature (SST), salinity (SSS), Total Alkalinity (AT) and Total Carbon (CT) were obtained during austral summer (mid-February to mid-March) from 2005 to 2019 in the Southern Ocean (SO), along a transect between Hobart, Tasmania and Dumont d’Urville French Antarctic Station. The studied transect is divided in four regions from North to South: the Subtropical Zone (STZ), the Subantarctic Region (SAR), the Antarctic Region (AAR) and the Coastal Antarctic Zone (CAZ). Latitudinal distribution of measured SST, SSS, AT, CT as well as calculated pH, CO2 parameters (seawater fugacity of CO2 (fCO2sw), difference between seawater and atmospheric fugacity (ΔfCO2), CO2 flux (FCO2)) and satellite-derived Chlorophyll a (Chl-a) are discussed. We show that the variability of physical and carbonate parameters in the STZ and north of the SAR are related to the mesoscale activity. In the CAZ, the freshwater inputs from sea-ice melting strongly impact the variability of all parameters. The comparison between physical and carbonate parameters highlights that AT and CT are directly related to the latitudinal variability of SST and SSS. Study of the CO2 parameters shows that the transect is a sink of CO2 during February and March, with a mean FCO2 of −4.0 ± 2.8 mmol m−2 d−1. The most negative values of FCO2 are found in the STZ and SAR north of 50°S and in the AAR south of 62°S, where biological activity is high. New simple empirical relationships are developed for AT from SST and SSS and for CT using SST, SSS and atmospheric fCO2 (fCO2atm) for the austral summer in the studied area. Using high resolution SSS and SST from the SURVOSTRAL program, trends of AT and CT are determined in the SAR and the AAR from 2005 to 2019. SST, SSS and AT increase over this period in the SAR, which might be explained by the southward migration of the Subtropical Front. In the AAR, no clear trend is detected. CT increases by 1.0 ± 0.2 and 0.8 ± 0.3 μmol kg−1 y−1 in the SAR and AAR respectively. The trend in the AAR is attributed to the increase in anthropogenic CO2 emissions in the atmosphere while, in the SAR, hydrographic changes also contribute to the increase. Using the coefficient associated with fCO2atm in the equation of CT, we estimate the impact of atmospheric CO2 increase on CT at 1.18 ± 0.14 μmol kg−1 y−1 and 1.07 ± 0.13 μmol kg−1 y−1 in the SAR and AAR respectively. Decreases in pH are observed in both regions (−0.0018 ± 0.0001 and −0.0026 ± 0.0003 per year in the SAR and AAR respectively), indicating the sensitivity of surface waters in the area towards the development of ocean acidification processes under rising anthropogenic emissions.

Brandon M., Goyet C., Touratier F., Lefèvre N., Kestenare E. & Morrow R., in press. Spatial and temporal variability of the physical, carbonate and CO2 properties in the Southern Ocean surface waters during austral summer (2005-2019). Deep Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers. Article (subscription required).

  • Reset


OA-ICC Highlights

%d bloggers like this: