Simulating natural carbon sequestration in the Southern Ocean: On uncertainties associated with eddy parameterizations and iron deposition

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Abstract

The Southern Ocean is a major sink for anthropogenic carbon. Yet, there is no quantitative consensus about how this sink will change when surface winds increase (as they are anticipated to do). Among the tools employed to quantify carbon uptake are global coupled ocean-circulation-biogeochemical models. Because of computational limitations these models still fail to resolve potentially important spatial scales. Instead, processes on these scales are parameterized. There is concern that deficiencies in these so-called eddy parameterizations might imprint incorrect sensitivities of projected oceanic carbon uptake. Here, we compare natural carbon uptake in the Southern Ocean simulated with contemporary eddy parameterizations. We find that very differing parameterizations yield surprisingly similar oceanic carbon in response to strengthening winds. In contrast, we find (in an additional simulation) that the carbon uptake does differ substantially when the supply of bioavailable iron is altered within its envelope of uncertainty. We conclude that a more comprehensive understanding of bioavailable iron dynamics will substantially reduce the uncertainty of model-based projections of oceanic carbon uptake.

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Dietze, H., Getzlaff, J., & Löptien, U. (2017). Simulating natural carbon sequestration in the Southern Ocean: On uncertainties associated with eddy parameterizations and iron deposition. Biogeosciences, 14(6), 1561–1576. https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-14-1561-2017

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