Publication Abstracts

McKinley et al. 2020

McKinley, G.A., A.R. Fay, Y.A. Eddebbar, L. Gloege, and N.S. Lovenduski, 2020: External forcing explains recent decadal variability of the ocean carbon sink. AGU Adv., 1, no. 2, e2019AV000149, doi:10.1029/2019AV000149.

The ocean has absorbed the equivalent of 39% of industrial-age fossil carbon emissions, significantly modulating the growth rate of atmospheric CO2 and its associated impacts on climate. Despite the importance of the ocean carbon sink to climate, our understanding of the causes of its interannual-to-decadal variability remains limited. This hinders our ability to attribute its past behavior and project its future. A key period of interest is the 1990s, when the ocean carbon sink did not grow as expected. Previous explanations of this behavior have focused on variability internal to the ocean or associated with coupled atmosphere/ocean modes. Here, we use an idealized upper ocean box model to illustrate that two external forcings are sufficient to explain the pattern and magnitude of sink variability since the mid-1980s. First, the global-scale reduction in the decadal-average ocean carbon sink in the 1990s is attributable to the slowed growth rate of atmospheric pCO2. The acceleration of atmospheric pCO2 growth after 2001 drove recovery of the sink. Second, the global sea surface temperature response to the 1991 eruption of Mt Pinatubo explains the timing of the global sink within the 1990s. These results are consistent with previous experiments using ocean hindcast models with variable atmospheric pCO2 and with and without climate variability. The fact that variability in the growth rate of atmospheric pCO2 directly imprints on the ocean sink implies that there will be an immediate reduction in ocean carbon uptake as atmospheric pCO2 responds to cuts in anthropogenic emissions.

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BibTeX Citation

  author={McKinley, G. A. and Fay, A. R. and Eddebbar, Y. A. and Gloege, L. and Lovenduski, N. S.},
  title={External forcing explains recent decadal variability of the ocean carbon sink},
  journal={AGU Adv.},

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RIS Citation

ID  - mc02200w
AU  - McKinley, G. A.
AU  - Fay, A. R.
AU  - Eddebbar, Y. A.
AU  - Gloege, L.
AU  - Lovenduski, N. S.
PY  - 2020
TI  - External forcing explains recent decadal variability of the ocean carbon sink
JA  - AGU Adv.
VL  - 1
IS  - 2
SP  - e2019AV000149
DO  - 10.1029/2019AV000149
ER  -

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