Monday, July 1, 2013

New paper finds ocean along N. California coast is a net source of CO2 to the atmosphere

A new paper published in Biogeosciences finds the ocean acts as a net source of CO2 along the Northern California coast, rather than as a sink. The authors find that "the coastal waters were a net source of CO2 to the atmosphere" during both periods of upwelling of deep waters as well as periods of "relaxation" without upwelling. The paper adds to other peer-reviewed publications demonstrating the oceans are a net source of CO2 to the atmosphere.
"Measurements in 2007 were during a typical upwelling period, as indicated by the seasonal variations of alongshore wind velocity and EUI in early summer, and a source of CO2 to the atmosphere was observed concurrently with low SST, high salinity, and low chlorophyll density. The measurements in 2008 were, on the contrary, made during a relaxation period with high SST and low salinity that likely led to water stratification and high chlorophyll density. A strong upwelling event preceding the measurements in 2008 likely created favourable conditions for CO2 uptake. However, the average CO2 flux over the 2008 measurements was a small source of CO2 overall. The pCO2 measurements also indicated that the coastal waters were a net source of CO2 to the atmosphere."

Biogeosciences, 10, 4419-4432, 2013

Air–sea exchange of CO2 at a Northern California coastal site along the California Current upwelling system

H. Ikawa et al

Abstract. It is not well understood whether coastal upwelling is a net CO2 source to the atmosphere or a net CO2 sink to the ocean due to high temporal variability of air–sea CO2 exchange (CO2 flux) in coastal upwelling zones. Upwelling transports heterotrophic, CO2 enriched water to the surface and releases CO2 to the atmosphere, whereas the presence of nutrient-rich water at the surface supports high primary production and atmospheric CO2 uptake. To quantify the effects of upwelling on CO2 flux, we measured CO2 flux at a coastal upwelling site off of Bodega Bay, California, with the eddy covariance technique during the summer of 2007 and the fall of 2008, and the bulk method with partial pressure of CO2 of surface water (pCO2) data from November 2010 to July 2011. Variations in sea surface temperatures (SST) and alongshore wind velocity suggest that the measurement period in 2007 coincided with a typical early summer upwelling period and the measurement period in 2008 was during a typical fall relaxation period. A strong source of CO2(~ 1.5 ± 7 SD (standard deviation) g C m−2 day−1) from the ocean to the atmosphere during the upwelling period was concurrent with high salinity, low SST, and low chlorophyll density. In contrast, a weak source of CO2 flux (~ 0.2 ± 3 SD g C m−2 day−1) was observed with low salinity, high SST and high chlorophyll density during the relaxation period. Similarly, the sink and source balance of CO2 flux was highly related to salinity and SST during the pCO2 measurement periods; high salinity and low SST corresponded to high pCO2, and vice versa. We estimated that the coastal area off Bodega Bay was likely an overall source of CO2 to the atmosphere based on the following conclusions: (1) the overall CO2 flux estimated from both eddy covariance and pCO2 measurements showed a source of CO2; (2) although the relaxation period during the 2008 measurements were favorable to CO2 uptake, CO2 flux during this period was still a slight source; (3) salinity and SST were found to be good predictors of the CO2 flux for both eddy covariance and pCO2 measurements, and 99% of the historical SST and salinity data available between 1988 and 2011 fell within the range of our observations in May–June 2007, August–September 2008 and November 2010–July~2011, which indicates that our data set was representative of the annual variations in the sea state. Based on the developed relationship between pCO2, SST and salinity, the study area between 1988 and 2011 was estimated to be an annual source of CO2 of ~ 35 mol C m−2 yr−1. The peak monthly CO2 flux of ~ 7 mol C m−2 month−1 accounted for almost 30% of the dissolved inorganic carbon in the surface mixed layer.


  1. "The oceans are a net provider of CO2 to the atmosphere"

  2. natural variability of ocean sinks/sources of CO2 with ocean oscillations