Journal cover Journal topic
Biogeosciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
Journal topic
Volume 15, issue 12
Biogeosciences, 15, 3761-3777, 2018
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-15-3761-2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
Biogeosciences, 15, 3761-3777, 2018
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-15-3761-2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 20 Jun 2018

Research article | 20 Jun 2018

The devil's in the disequilibrium: multi-component analysis of dissolved carbon and oxygen changes under a broad range of forcings in a general circulation model

Sarah Eggleston1,a and Eric D. Galbraith1,2,3 Sarah Eggleston and Eric D. Galbraith
  • 1Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia Ambientals (ICTA), Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 08193 Barcelona, Spain
  • 2Institució Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avançats (ICREA), Pg. Lluís Companys 23, 08010 Barcelona, Spain
  • 3Department of Earth and Planetary Science, McGill University, Montréal, Québec H3A 2A7, Canada
  • anow at: Laboratory for Air Pollution & Environmental Technology, Empa, Überlandstrasse 129, 8600 Dübendorf, Switzerland

Abstract. The complexity of dissolved gas cycling in the ocean presents a challenge for mechanistic understanding and can hinder model intercomparison. One helpful approach is the conceptualization of dissolved gases as the sum of multiple, strictly defined components. Here we decompose dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) into four components: saturation (DICsat), disequilibrium (DICdis), carbonate (DICcarb), and soft tissue (DICsoft). The cycling of dissolved oxygen is simpler, but can still be aided by considering O2, O2sat, and O2dis. We explore changes in these components within a large suite of simulations with a complex coupled climate–biogeochemical model, driven by changes in astronomical parameters, ice sheets, and radiative forcing, in order to explore the potential importance of the different components to ocean carbon storage on long timescales. We find that both DICsoft and DICdis vary over a range of 40µmolkg−1 in response to the climate forcing, equivalent to changes in atmospheric pCO2 on the order of 50ppm for each. The most extreme values occur at the coldest and intermediate climate states. We also find significant changes in O2 disequilibrium, with large increases under cold climate states. We find that, despite the broad range of climate states represented, changes in global DICsoft can be quantitatively approximated by the product of deep ocean ideal age and the global export production flux. In contrast, global DICdis is dominantly controlled by the fraction of the ocean filled by Antarctic Bottom Water (AABW). Because the AABW fraction and ideal age are inversely correlated among the simulations, DICdis and DICsoft are also inversely correlated, dampening the overall changes in DIC. This inverse correlation could be decoupled if changes in deep ocean mixing were to alter ideal age independently of AABW fraction, or if independent ecosystem changes were to alter export and remineralization, thereby modifying DICsoft. As an example of the latter, we show that iron fertilization causes both DICsoft and DICdis to increase and that the relationship between these two components depends on the climate state. We propose a simple framework to consider the global contribution of DICsoft + DICdis to ocean carbon storage as a function of the surface preformed nitrate and DICdis of dense water formation regions, the global volume fractions ventilated by these regions, and the global nitrate inventory.

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To better understand why atmospheric carbon dioxide has changed over the course of Earth's history, we analyze carbon dissolved in the ocean in a state-of-the-art model. While primary producers in the surface ocean are important to the global carbon cycle, the carbon in the ocean and atmosphere are not in equilibrium in most places, and our results indicate that the degree of this disequilibrium, which has previously been largely ignored in similar studies, could be just as significant.
To better understand why atmospheric carbon dioxide has changed over the course of Earth's...
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