Physical and biological forcings on the carbonate chemistry in the North Atlantic Ocean
University of Southampton, School of Ocean and Earth Science,
The atmospheric concentration of CO2 has risen considerably since the industrial revolution, and the subsequent uptake of atmospheric CO2 by the oceans has affected the carbonate system and caused a reduction in the pH of the oceans. Model estimates involving future CO2 emission scenarios have predicted a significant increase of oceanic Dissolved Inorganic Carbon concentrations by the end of the century, corresponding to a decrease in oceanic pH by up to 0.4. In order to observe and predict changes in primary productivity and community structure in the oceans associated with future climate change, precise measurements of all the carbonate system parameters are important. The natural processes affecting the seasonal and regional variations of the carbonate chemistry are still poorly understood and sustained monitoring programs are required in order to determine the importance of hydrographical and biogeochemical forcings. The relationships between physical and biological parameters and carbonate system parameters were investigated in several regions of the North Atlantic Ocean, allowing a better understanding of the natural processes affecting the carbonate system in this ocean basin. For this purpose, the seasonal and inter-annual variability of the carbonate system in the Northeast Atlantic Ocean was studied through a ship of opportunity program, allowing observations of the short-term processes affecting the carbonate system and air-sea CO2 fluxes. The results showed contrasting effects of winter mixing and sea surface temperature on the carbonate system and the air-sea CO2 fluxes. In addition, the distributions of the carbonate system parameters were determined in the Iceland Basin and in the sub-tropical Northeast Atlantic Ocean. The carbonate system in the Iceland Basin was characterized by mesoscale variability associated to the presence and development of an eddy dipole in the study region; while the sub-tropical Northeast Atlantic Ocean showed spatial variability in all the chemical parameters, associated with coastal upwelling and remineralization in an oxygen minimum zone. Although the physics appeared to be the main forcing on the carbonate system in this study, the role of biology in the seasonality of the carbonate system is highly important. However, physical forcings tend to set the level for biological drawdown and therefore highly contribute to the variability of the carbonate system and CO2 fluxes.
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