, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp 63-90

Transport and storage of CO2 in the ocean ——an inorganic ocean-circulation carbon cycle model

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Inorganic carbon in the ocean is modelled as a passive tracer advected by a three-dimensional current field computed from a dynamical global ocean circulation model. The carbon exchange between the ocean and atmosphere is determined directly from the (temperature-dependent) chemical interaction rates in the mixed layer, using a standard CO2 flux relation at the air-sea interface. The carbon cycle is closed by coupling the ocean to a one-layer, horizontally diffusive atmosphere. Biological sources and sinks are not included. In this form the ocean carbon model contains essentially no free tuning parameters. The model may be regarded as a reference for interpreting numerical experiments with extended versions of the model including biological processes in the ocean (Bacastow R and Maier-Reimer E in prep.) and on land (Esser G et al in prep.). Qualitatively, the model reproduces the principal features of the observed CO2 distribution bution in the surface ocean. However, the amplitudes of surface pCO2 are underestimated in upwelling regions by a factor of the order of 1.5 due to the missing biological pump. The model without biota may, nevertheless, be applied to compute the storage capacity of the ocean to first order for anthropogenic CO2 emissions. In the linear regime, the response of the model may be represented by an impulse response function which can be approximated by a superposition of exponentials with different amplitudes and time constants. This provides a simple reference for comparison with box models. The largest-amplitude (∼0.35) exponential has a time constant of 300 years. The effective storage capacity of the oceans is strongly dependent on the time history of the anthropogenic input, as found also in earlier box model studies.