skip to main content


Title: Modulation of ocean acidification by decadal climate variability in the Gulf of Alaska
Abstract

Uptake of anthropogenic carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by the surface ocean is leading to global ocean acidification, but regional variations in ocean circulation and mixing can dampen or accelerate apparent acidification rates. Here we use a regional ocean model simulation for the years 1980 to 2013 and observational data to investigate how ocean fluctuations impact acidification rates in surface waters of the Gulf of Alaska. We find that large-scale atmospheric forcing influenced local winds and upwelling strength, which in turn affected ocean acidification rate. Specifically, variability in local wind stress curl depressed sea surface height in the subpolar gyre over decade-long intervals, which increased upwelling of nitrate- and dissolved inorganic carbon-rich waters and enhanced apparent ocean acidification rates. We define this sea surface height variability as the Northern Gulf of Alaska Oscillation and suggest that it can cause extreme acidification events that are detrimental to ecosystem health and fisheries.

 
more » « less
Award ID(s):
2026045 1656070
NSF-PAR ID:
10383837
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Publisher / Repository:
Nature Publishing Group
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Communications Earth & Environment
Volume:
2
Issue:
1
ISSN:
2662-4435
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract. The coastal ecosystem of the Gulf of Alaska (GOA) is especially vulnerable to the effects of ocean acidification and climate change. Detection of these long-term trends requires a good understanding of the system’s natural state. The GOA is a highly dynamic system that exhibits large inorganic carbon variability on subseasonal to interannual timescales. This variability is poorly understood due to the lack of observations in this expansive and remote region. We developed a new model setup for the GOA that couples the three-dimensional Regional Oceanic Model System (ROMS) and the Carbon, Ocean Biogeochemistry and Lower Trophic (COBALT) ecosystem model. To improve our conceptual understanding of the system, we conducted a hindcast simulation from 1980 to 2013. The model was explicitly forced with temporally and spatially varying coastal freshwater discharges from a high-resolution terrestrial hydrological model, thereby affecting salinity, alkalinity, dissolved inorganic carbon, and nutrient concentrations. This represents a substantial improvement over previous GOA modeling attempts. Here, we evaluate the model on seasonal to interannual timescales using the best available inorganic carbon observations. The model was particularly successful in reproducing observed aragonite oversaturation and undersaturation of near-bottom water in May and September, respectively. The largest deficiency in the model is its inability to adequately simulate springtime surface inorganic carbon chemistry, as it overestimates surface dissolved inorganic carbon, which translates into an underestimation of the surface aragonite saturation state at this time. We also use the model to describe the seasonal cycle and drivers of inorganic carbon parameters along the Seward Line transect in under-sampled months. Model output suggests that the majority of the near-bottom water along the Seward Line is seasonally undersaturated with respect to aragonite between June and January, as a result of upwelling and remineralization. Such an extensive period of reoccurring aragonite undersaturation may be harmful to ocean acidification-sensitive organisms. Furthermore, the influence of freshwater not only decreases the aragonite saturation state in coastal surface waters in summer and fall, but it simultaneously decreases the surface partial pressure of carbon dioxide (pCO2), thereby decoupling the aragonite saturation state from pCO2. The full seasonal cycle and geographic extent of the GOA region is under-sampled, and our model results give new and important insights for months of the year and areas that lack in situ inorganic carbon observations. 
    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    Ocean acidification is progressing rapidly in the California Current System (CCS), a region already susceptible to reduced aragonite saturation state due to seasonal coastal upwelling. Results from a high-resolution (~ 3 km), coupled physical-biogeochemical model highlight that the intensity, duration, and severity of undersaturation events exhibit high interannual variability along the central CCS shelfbreak. Variability in dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) along the bottom of the 100-m isobath explains 70–90% of event severity variance over the range of latitudes where most severe conditions occur. An empirical orthogonal function (EOF) analysis further reveals that interannual event variability is explained by a combination coastal upwelling intensity and DIC content in upwelled source waters. Simulated regional DIC exhibits low frequency temporal variability resembling that of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, and is explained by changes to water mass composition in the CCS. While regional DIC concentrations and upwelling intensity individually explain 9 and 43% of year-to-year variability in undersaturation event severity, their combined influence accounts for 66% of the variance. The mechanistic description of exposure to undersaturated conditions presented here provides important context for monitoring the progression of ocean acidification in the CCS and identifies conditions leading to increased vulnerability for ecologically and commercially important species.

     
    more » « less
  3. null (Ed.)
    Abstract. The western Arctic Ocean, including its shelves and coastal habitats, has become a focus in ocean acidification research over the past decade as thecolder waters of the region and the reduction of sea ice appear to promote the uptake of excess atmospheric CO2. Due to seasonal sea icecoverage, high-frequency monitoring of pH or other carbonate chemistry parameters is typically limited to infrequent ship-based transects duringice-free summers. This approach has failed to capture year-round nearshore carbonate chemistry dynamics which is modulated by biological metabolismin response to abundant allochthonous organic matter to the narrow shelf of the Beaufort Sea and adjacent regions. The coastline of the Beaufort Seacomprises a series of lagoons that account for > 50 % of the land–sea interface. The lagoon ecosystems are novel features that cycle between“open” and “closed” phases (i.e., ice-free and ice-covered, respectively). In this study, we collected high-frequency pH, salinity,temperature, and photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) measurements in association with the Beaufort Lagoon Ecosystems – Long Term Ecological Research program – for an entire calendar yearin Kaktovik Lagoon, Alaska, USA, capturing two open-water phases and one closed phase. Hourly pH variability during the open-water phases are someof the fastest rates reported, exceeding 0.4 units. Baseline pH varied substantially between the open phase in 2018 and open phase in 2019 from ∼ 7.85to 8.05, respectively, despite similar hourly rates of change. Salinity–pH relationships were mixed during all three phases, displaying nocorrelation in the 2018 open phase, a negative correlation in the 2018/19 closed phase, and a positive correlation during the 2019 open phase. The high frequency of pH variabilitycould partially be explained by photosynthesis–respiration cycles as correlation coefficients between daily average pH and PAR were 0.46 and 0.64for 2018 and 2019 open phases, respectively. The estimated annual daily average CO2 efflux (from sea to atmosphere) was5.9 ± 19.3 mmolm-2d-1, which is converse to the negative influx of CO2 estimated for the coastal Beaufort Seadespite exhibiting extreme variability. Considering the geomorphic differences such as depth and enclosure in Beaufort Sea lagoons, furtherinvestigation is needed to assess whether there are periods of the open phase in which lagoons are sources of carbon to the atmosphere, potentiallyoffsetting the predicted sink capacity of the greater Beaufort Sea. 
    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    Anthropogenic carbon emissions and associated climate change are driving rapid warming, acidification, and deoxygenation in the ocean, which increasingly stress marine ecosystems. On top of long‐term trends, short term variability of marine stressors can have major implications for marine ecosystems and their management. As such, there is a growing need for predictions of marine ecosystem stressors on monthly, seasonal, and multi‐month timescales. Previous studies have demonstrated the ability to make reliable predictions of the surface ocean physical and biogeochemical state months to years in advance, but few studies have investigated forecast skill of multiple stressors simultaneously or assessed the forecast skill below the surface. Here, we use the Community Earth System Model (CESM) Seasonal to Multiyear Large Ensemble (SMYLE) along with novel observation‐based biogeochemical and physical products to quantify the predictive skill of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC), dissolved oxygen, and temperature in the surface and subsurface ocean. CESM SMYLE demonstrates high physical and biogeochemical predictive skill multiple months in advance in key oceanic regions and frequently outperforms persistence forecasts. We find up to 10 months of skillful forecasts, with particularly high skill in the Northeast Pacific (Gulf of Alaska and California Current Large Marine Ecosystems) for temperature, surface DIC, and subsurface oxygen. Our findings suggest that dynamical marine ecosystem prediction could support actionable advice for decision making.

     
    more » « less
  5. null (Ed.)
    Abstract The California Current System (CCS) sustains economically valuable fisheries and is particularly vulnerable to ocean acidification, due to its natural upwelling of carbon-enriched waters that generate corrosive conditions for local ecosystems. Here we use a novel suite of retrospective, initialized ensemble forecasts with an Earth system model (ESM) to predict the evolution of surface pH anomalies in the CCS. We show that the forecast system skillfully predicts observed surface pH variations a year in advance over a naive forecasting method, with the potential for skillful prediction up to five years in advance. Skillful predictions of surface pH are mainly derived from the initialization of dissolved inorganic carbon anomalies that are subsequently transported into the CCS. Our results demonstrate the potential for ESMs to provide skillful predictions of ocean acidification on large scales in the CCS. Initialized ESMs could also provide boundary conditions to improve high-resolution regional forecasting systems. 
    more » « less