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The Anthropogenic Ocean Carbon Sink Alan Cohn March 29, 2006

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Presentation on theme: "The Anthropogenic Ocean Carbon Sink Alan Cohn March 29, 2006"— Presentation transcript:

1 The Anthropogenic Ocean Carbon Sink Alan Cohn March 29, 2006

2 Due to oceanic and land sinks, less than 1/2 of CO 2 emissions from industrial period remain in atmosphere. How much is due to land sink and how much is due to ocean sink? How have sinks changed over time and how will they change in future?

3 O 2 /N 2 technique used in 2001 IPCC report has come under scrutiny due to inconsistencies in observed oceanic oxygen concentrations with CO 2 inventory. More recent efforts have based CO 2 inventories on “age” of water, carbonate chemistry

4 McNeil et al. (2003) used CFC concentrations to estimate age of water masses Problems with this method. CFCs around for limited time  dating prior to ~30yrs impossible Don’t account for Revelle factor

5 Revelle factor is defined as Describes how partial pressure of CO 2 in seawater changes for a given change in DIC Proportional to ratio btwn DIC and alkalinity (oceanic charge balance). Low Revelle factors generally in warm tropical and subtropical waters High Revelle factors in cold high latitude waters

6 Sabine et al. (2004) used direct measurements of DIC to assess changes in anthropogenic ocean CO 2 Used carbon tracer ∆C* method to separate anthropogenic component;305/5682/367

7 North Atlantic had highest vertically integrated CO 2 concentrations with 23% of global oceanic CO 2 Mostly due to the rapid sinking of cold water;305/5682/367

8 Southern Ocean south of 50°S only contains 9% of global inventory Southern Hemisphere oceans, however, contain about 60% of total oceanic CO 2 inventory, mostly due to immense area;305/5682/367

9 Highest concentrations of anthropogenic CO 2 are found near surface, since CO 2 enters ocean by air- sea gas exchange Variations in surface CO 2 concentration related to how long water has been exposed to atmosphere and Revelle factor

10 Capacity for ocean waters to take up anthropogenic CO 2 is inversely related to the Revelle factor Highest anthropogenic CO 2 concentrations found in subtropical Atlantic due to low Revelle factor North Pacific has high Revelle factor  lower anthropogenic CO 2 concentrations

11 Revelle factor limits uptake so that ocean CO 2 inventory is significantly lower than what it would be if one was to neglect its influence

12 CO 2 concentrations at depth determined by how rapidly near-surface anthropogenic CO 2 is transported into the ocean interior Transport occurs along surfaces of constant density, or isopycnals Deepest penetration at mid-latitude convergence zones Low vertical penetration in upwelling regions like equatorial Pacific Atmospheric CO 2 concentration when water was last in contact with surface also important

13 High winds Low initial anthropogenic CO 2 content of water Rapid sinking High anthropogenic CO 2 concentrations off Antarctica due to: Deepwater has low concentrations because: High Revelle factor Limited contact with surface Dilution with older waters

14 Sabine et al. suggest that land has been net source while ocean is only true net sink They estimate atmospheric CO 2 would be about 55ppmv higher today if it weren’t for oceanic uptake What if oceanic uptake slows down?

15 Already, there are signs of slowing Ocean has slow mixing time  may not be able to “keep up” with emissions Uptake fraction has decreased from 28-34% to ~26% If given thousands of years, ocean would uptake ~90% Positive and Negative feedbacks may take effect

16 Negative feedbacks are mostly chemical Warming  More stratification  Transport into the interior slows down McNeil et al. suggest that this will not have much effect on oceanic uptake Chemical: Greater P CO 2 of surface ocean  Decrease in carbonate ion concentration  Increase in Revelle factor  decreased ability to absorb CO 2

17 Fung et al. modeled future oceanic uptake using 2 different emissions scenarios Includes simplified form of solubility carbon pump, organic and inorganic carbon pump, and air-sea CO 2 flux Scenario A1B: Balanced energy sources –Fossil Fuel emissions increase until 2050, then decrease Scenario A2: Business-as-usual –Emissions increase exponentially

18 In balanced energy sources model, mixing of CO 2 in deep ocean maintains slower surface CO 2 increase  Oceanic sink steadily increases  Atmospheric CO 2 concentrations in 2100 of 661 ppmv  Temperature increase of 1.21 K Oceanic CO 2 fraction in 2100, compared to land & airborne CO 2, is 24%

19 In business-as-usual scenario, carbon sequestration in land and ocean can’t keep up with emissions  Capacity of sinks decreases as CO 2 increases.  Atmospheric CO 2 concentrations in 2100 of 792 ppmv  Temperature increase of 1.42 K Oceanic CO 2 fraction in 2100 is 21%

20 Models did not include an increasing Revelle factor! Their results were based on a slowed ocean circulation Also accounted for increased biological uptake Difference between coupled and uncoupled carbon-climate system (gC/m 2 )

21 Because they did not account for the Revelle factor, they may have overestimated oceanic uptake and underestimated atmospheric CO 2 concentrations! More model studies are need that account for ocean acidification Caldeira & Wickett, Nature, 2003

22 References Fung et al. (2005) Evolution of carbon sinks in a changing climate. PNAS, 102, 11201-11206. Gruber, N., Sarmiento, J.L., and T. Stocker (1996) An improved method for detecting anthropogenic CO 2 in the oceans, Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 10, 809-837. Houghton et al. (2001) Climate Change 2001: Synthesis Report, Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, U.K. McNeil et al. (2003) Anthropogenic CO 2 Uptake by the Ocean Based on the Global Chlorofluorocarbon Data Set, Science, 299, 235-239. Sabine et al. (2004) The Oceanic Sink for Anthropogenic CO 2, Science, 305, 367-371.

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