Seasonal variability of the surface ocean carbon cycle: a synthesis


The seasonal cycle is the dominant mode of variability in the air-sea CO2 flux in most regions of the global ocean, yet discrepancies between different seasonality estimates are rather large. As part of the Regional Carbon Cycle Assessment and Processes phase 2 project (RECCAP2), we synthesize surface ocean pCO2 and air-sea CO2 flux seasonality from models and observation-based estimates, focusing on both a present-day climatology and decadal changes between the 1980s and 2010s. Four main findings emerge: First, global ocean biogeochemistry models (GOBMs) and observation-based estimates (pCO2 products) of surface pCO2 seasonality disagree in amplitude and phase, primarily due to discrepancies in the seasonal variability in surface DIC. Second, the seasonal cycle in pCO2 has increased in amplitude over the last three decades in both pCO2 products and GOBMs. Third, decadal increases in pCO2 seasonal cycle amplitudes in subtropical biomes for both pCO2 products and GOBMs are driven by increasing DIC concentrations stemming from the uptake of anthropogenic CO2 (Cant). In subpolar and Southern Ocean biomes, however, the seasonality change for GOBMs is dominated by Cant invasion, whereas for pCO2 products an indeterminate combination of Cant invasion and climate change modulates the changes. Fourth, biome-aggregated decadal changes in the amplitude of pCO2 seasonal variability are largely detectable against both mapping uncertainty (reducible) and natural variability uncertainty (irreducible), but not at the gridpoint scale over much of the northern subpolar oceans and over the Southern Ocean, underscoring the importance of sustained high-quality seasonally-resolved measurements over these regions.

Key Points

  • pCO2 seasonal cycle amplitude changes over 1985-2018 are detectable against both mapping uncertainty and natural variability uncertainty
  • The dominant driver of pCO2 amplitude increases over decadal timescales is attributed to the direct effect of Cant invasion
  • A discrepancy is found with surface DIC seasonality being systematically less in GOBMs than in surface DIC observation-based products

Rodgers K. B., Schwinger J., Fassbender A. J., Landschützer P., Yamaguchi R., Frenzel H., Stein K., Müller J. D., Goris N., Sharma S., Bushinsky S., Chau T.-T.-T., Gehlen M., Angeles Gallego M., Gloege L., Gregor L., Gruber N., Hauck J., Iida Y., Ishii M., Keppler L., Kim J.-E., Schlunegger S., Tjiputra J., Toyama K., Ayar P. V. & Velo A., 2023. Seasonal variability of the surface ocean carbon cycle: a synthesis. Global Biogeochemical Cycles 37: e2023GB007798. doi: 10.1029/2023GB007798. Article.

  • Reset


OA-ICC Highlights

%d bloggers like this: