Recent variability of the global ocean carbon sink

Peter Landschutzer, Nicholas Gruber, Dorothee C. E. Bakker, Ute Schuster

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We present a new observation-based estimate of the global oceanic carbon dioxide (CO2) sink and its temporal variation on a monthly basis from 1998 through 2011 and at a spatial resolution of 1×1. This sink estimate rests upon a neural network-based mapping of global surface ocean observations of the partial pressure of CO2 (pCO2) from the Surface Ocean CO2 Atlas database. The resulting pCO2 has small biases when evaluated against independent observations in the different ocean basins, but larger randomly distributed differences exist particularly in high latitudes. The seasonal climatology
of our neural network-based product agrees overall well with the Takahashi et al. (2009) climatology, although our product produces a stronger seasonal cycle at high latitudes. From our global pCO2 product, we compute a mean net global ocean (excluding the Arctic Ocean and coastal regions) CO2 uptake
flux of −1.42 ± 0.53 Pg C yr−1, which is in good agreement with ocean inversion-based estimates. Our data indicate a moderate level of interannual variability in the ocean carbon sink (±0.12 Pg C yr−1, 1𝜎) from 1998 through 2011, mostly originating from the equatorial Pacific Ocean, and associated with the El Nino–Southern Oscillation. Accounting for steady state riverine and Arctic Ocean carbon fluxes our estimate further implies a mean anthropogenic CO2 uptake of −1.99 ± 0.59 Pg C yr−1 over the analysis period. From this estimate plus the most recent estimates for fossil fuel emissions and atmospheric CO2
accumulation, we infer a mean global land sink of −2.82 ± 0.85 Pg C yr−1 over the 1998 through 2011 period with strong interannual variation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)927–949
Number of pages23
JournalGlobal Biogeochemical Cycles
Issue number9
Early online date19 Aug 2014
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2014


  • sea-surface pCO2
  • neural network
  • air-sea exchange of CO2
  • ocean carbon cycle
  • observations

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