Fingerprint of climate change on Southern Ocean carbon storage

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Abstract

The Southern Ocean plays a critical role in the uptake, transport, and storage of carbon by the global oceans. It is the ocean's largest sink of CO2, yet it is also among the regions with the lowest storage of anthropogenic carbon. This behavior results from a unique combination of high winds driving the upwelling of deep waters and the subduction and northward transport of surface carbon. Here we isolate the direct effect of increasing anthropogenic CO2 in the atmosphere from the indirect effect of climate variability and climate change on the reorganization of carbon in the Southern Ocean interior using a combination of modeling and observations. We show that the effect of climate variability and climate change on the storage of carbon in the Southern Ocean is nearly as large as the effect of anthropogenic CO2 during the period 1998–2018 compared with the climatology around the year 1995. We identify a distinct climate fingerprint in dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC), with elevated DIC concentration in the ocean at 300–600 m that reinforces the anthropogenic CO2 signal, and reduced DIC concentration in the ocean around 2,000 m that offsets the anthropogenic CO2 signal. The fingerprint is strongest at lower latitudes (30°–55°S). This fingerprint could serve to monitor the highly uncertain evolution of carbon within this critical ocean basin, and better identify its drivers.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2022GB007596
JournalGlobal Biogeochemical Cycles
Volume37
Issue number4
Early online date3 Apr 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023

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