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Discussion papers | Copyright
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 05 Oct 2018

Research article | 05 Oct 2018

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Earth System Dynamics (ESD).

Predicting near-term changes in ocean carbon uptake

Nicole S. Lovenduski1, Stephen G. Yeager2, Keith Lindsay2, and Matthew C. Long2 Nicole S. Lovenduski et al.
  • 1Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences and Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, USA
  • 2Climate and Global Dynamics Laboratory, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado, USA

Abstract. Annual to decadal variations in air–sea fluxes of carbon dioxide (CO2) impact the global carbon cycle and climate system, and previous studies suggest that these variations may be predictable in the near-term. Here, we quantify and understand the sources of near-term (annual to decadal) predictability and predictive skill in air–sea CO2 flux on global and regional scales by analyzing output from a novel set of retrospective decadal forecasts of the Earth system. These initialized forecasts exhibit the potential to predict year-to-year variations in the globally-integrated air–sea CO2 flux up to ~7 years in advance. This initialized predictability exceeds the predictability obtained solely from foreknowledge of variations in external forcing or a simple persistence forecast. The near-term CO2 flux predictability is largely driven by predictability in the surface ocean partial pressure of CO2, which itself is a function of predictability in surface ocean dissolved inorganic carbon and alkalinity. Comparison with an observationally-based product suggests that the initialized forecasts exhibit moderate predictive skill in the tropics and subtropics, but low skill elsewhere. In the subantarctic Southern Ocean and northern North Atlantic, we find long-lasting initialized predictability that beats that derived from uninitialized and persistence forecasts. Our results suggest that year-to-year variations in ocean carbon uptake may be predictable well in advance, and establish a precedent for forecasting air–sea CO2 flux in the near future.

Nicole S. Lovenduski et al.
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Status: open (until 16 Nov 2018)
Status: open (until 16 Nov 2018)
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Nicole S. Lovenduski et al.
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Latest update: 15 Oct 2018
Publications Copernicus
Short summary
This paper shows that the absorption of carbon dioxide by the ocean is predictable several years in advance. This is important because fossil fuel-derived carbon dioxide is largely responsible for anthropogenic global warming, and because carbon dioxide emissions management and global carbon cycle budgeting exercises can benefit from foreknowledge of ocean carbon absorption. The promising results from this new forecast system justify the need for additional oceanic observations.
This paper shows that the absorption of carbon dioxide by the ocean is predictable several years...