skip to main content

Title: Utilizing the Drake Passage Time-series to understand variability and change in subpolar Southern Ocean <i>p</i>CO<sub>2</sub>
Abstract. The Southern Ocean is highly under-sampled for the purpose of assessing total carbon uptake and its variability. Since this region dominates the mean global ocean sink for anthropogenic carbon, understanding temporal change is critical. Underway measurements of pCO2 collected as part of the Drake Passage Time-series (DPT) program that began in 2002 inform our understanding of seasonally changing air–sea gradients in pCO2, and by inference the carbon flux in this region. Here, we utilize available pCO2 observations to evaluate how the seasonal cycle, interannual variability, and long-term trends in surface ocean pCO2 in the Drake Passage region compare to that of the broader subpolar Southern Ocean. Our results indicate that the Drake Passage is representative of the broader region in both seasonality and long-term pCO2 trends, as evident through the agreement of timing and amplitude of seasonal cycles as well as trend magnitudes both seasonally and annually. The high temporal density of sampling by the DPT is critical to constraining estimates of the seasonal cycle of surface pCO2 in this region, as winter data remain sparse in areas outside of the Drake Passage. An increase in winter data would aid in reduction of uncertainty levels. On average over the period 2002–2016, data show that carbon uptake has strengthened with annual surface ocean pCO2 trends in the Drake Passage and the broader subpolar Southern Ocean less than the global atmospheric trend. Analysis of spatial correlation shows Drake Passage pCO2 to be representative of pCO2 and its variability up to several hundred kilometers away from the region. We also compare DPT data from 2016 and 2017 to contemporaneous pCO2 estimates from autonomous biogeochemical floats deployed as part of the Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observations and Modeling project (SOCCOM) so as to highlight the opportunity for evaluating data collected on autonomous observational platforms. Though SOCCOM floats sparsely sample the Drake Passage region for 2016–2017 compared to the Drake Passage Time-series, their pCO2 estimates fall within the range of underway observations given the uncertainty on the estimates. Going forward, continuation of the Drake Passage Time-series will reduce uncertainties in Southern Ocean carbon uptake seasonality, variability, and trends, and provide an invaluable independent dataset for post-deployment assessment of sensors on autonomous floats. Together, these datasets will vastly increase our ability to monitor change in the ocean carbon sink.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Page Range / eLocation ID:
3841 to 3855
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract. Ship-based time series, some now approaching over 3 decades long, are critical climate records that have dramatically improved our ability to characterize natural and anthropogenic drivers of ocean carbon dioxide (CO2) uptake and biogeochemical processes. Advancements in autonomous marine carbon sensors and technologies over the last 2 decades have led to the expansion of observations at fixed time series sites, thereby improving the capability of characterizing sub-seasonal variability in the ocean. Here, we present a data product of 40 individual autonomous moored surface ocean pCO2 (partial pressure of CO2) time series established between 2004 and 2013, 17 also include autonomous pH measurements. These time series characterize a wide range of surface ocean carbonate conditions in different oceanic (17 sites), coastal (13 sites), and coral reef (10 sites) regimes. A time of trend emergence (ToE) methodology applied to the time series that exhibit well-constrained daily to interannual variability and an estimate of decadal variability indicates that the length of sustained observations necessary to detect statistically significant anthropogenic trends varies by marine environment. The ToE estimates for seawater pCO2 and pH range from 8 to 15 years at the open ocean sites, 16 to 41 years at the coastal sites, and 9 to 22 years at the coral reef sites. Only two open ocean pCO2 time series, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Hawaii Ocean Time-series Station (WHOTS) in the subtropical North Pacific and Stratus in the South Pacific gyre, have been deployed longer than the estimated trend detection time and, for these, deseasoned monthly means show estimated anthropogenic trends of 1.9±0.3 and 1.6±0.3 µatm yr−1, respectively. In the future, it is possible that updates to this product will allow for the estimation of anthropogenic trends at more sites; however, the product currently provides a valuable tool in an accessible format for evaluating climatology and natural variability of surface ocean carbonate chemistry in a variety of regions. Data are available at and (Sutton et al., 2018). 
    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    The Drake Passage Time‐series (DPT) is used to quantify the spatial and seasonal variability of historically undersampled, biogeochemically relevant properties across the Drake Passage. From 2004–2017, discrete ship‐based observations of surface macronutrients (silicate, nitrate, and phosphate), temperature, and salinity have been collected 5–8 times per year as part of the DPT program. Using the DPT and Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) front locations derived from concurrent expendable bathythermograph data, the distinct physical and biogeochemical characteristics of ACC frontal zones are characterized. Biogeochemical‐Argo floats in the region confirm that the near‐surface sampling scheme of the DPT robustly captures mixed‐layer biogeochemistry. While macronutrient concentrations consistently increase toward the Antarctic continent, their meridional distribution, variability, and biogeochemical gradients are unique across physical ACC fronts, suggesting a combination of physical and biological processes controlling nutrient availability and nutrient front location. The Polar Front is associated with the northern expression of the Silicate Front, marking the biogeographically relevant location between silicate‐poor and silicate‐rich waters. South of the northern Silicate Front, the silicate‐to‐nitrate ratio increases, with the sharpest gradient in silicate associated with the Southern ACC Front (i.e., the southern expression of the Silicate Front). Nutrient cycling is an important control on variability in the surface ocean partial pressure of carbon dioxide (pCO2). The robust characterization of the spatiotemporal variability of nutrients presented here highlights the utility of biogeochemical time series for diagnosing and potentially reducing biases in modeling Southern Ocean pCO2variability, and by inference, air‐sea CO2flux.

    more » « less
  3. The Southern Ocean is an important region of ocean carbon uptake, and observations indicate its air‐sea carbon flux fluctuates from seasonal to decadal timescales. Carbon fluxes at regional scales remain highly uncertain due to sparse observation and intrinsic complexity of the biogeochemical processes. The objective of this study is to better understand the mechanisms influencing variability of carbon uptake in the Drake Passage. A regional circulation and biogeochemistry model is configured at the lateral resolution of 10 km, which resolves larger mesoscale eddies where the typical Rossby deformation radius is(50 km). We use this model to examine the interplay between mean and eddy advection, convective mixing, and biological carbon export that determines the surface dissolved inorganic carbon and partial pressure of carbon dioxide variability. Results are validated against in situ observations, demonstrating that the model captures general features of observed seasonal to interannual variability. The model reproduces the two major fronts: Polar Front (PF) and Subantarctic Front (SAF), with locally elevated level of eddy kinetic energy and lateral eddy carbon flux, which play prominent roles in setting the spatial pattern, mean state and variability of the regional carbon budget. The uptake of atmospheric CO2, vertical entrainment during cool seasons, and mean advection are the major carbon sources in the upper 200 m of the region. These sources are balanced by the biological carbon export during warm seasons and mesoscale eddy transfer. Comparing the induced advective carbon fluxes, mean flow dominates in magnitude, however, the amplitude of variability is controlled by the eddy flux.

    more » « less
  4. null (Ed.)
    Abstract. In this study, we present the first combined open- and coastal-ocean pCO2 mapped monthly climatology (Landschützer et al., 2020b,,, last access: 8 April 2020) constructed from observations collected between 1998 and 2015 extracted from the Surface Ocean CO2 Atlas (SOCAT) database. We combine two neural network-based pCO2 products, one from the open ocean and the other from the coastal ocean, and investigate their consistency along their common overlap areas. While the difference between open- and coastal-ocean estimates along the overlap area increases with latitude, it remains close to 0 µatm globally. Stronger discrepancies, however, exist on the regional level resulting in differences that exceed 10 % of the climatological mean pCO2, or an order of magnitude larger than the uncertainty from state-of-the-art measurements. This also illustrates the potential of such an analysis to highlight where we lack a good representation of the aquatic continuum and future research should be dedicated. A regional analysis further shows that the seasonal carbon dynamics at the coast–open interface are well represented in our climatology. While our combined product is only a first step towards a true representation of both the open-ocean and the coastal-ocean air–sea CO2 flux in marine carbon budgets, we show it is a feasible task and the present data product already constitutes a valuable tool to investigate and quantify the dynamics of the air–sea CO2 exchange consistently for oceanic regions regardless of its distance to the coast. 
    more » « less
  5. 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