Predicting near-term variability in ocean carbon uptake

Lovenduski, Nicole S.; Yeager, Stephen G.; Lindsay, Keith; Long, Matthew C.

Interannual 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 (from a year to a decade in advance). Here, we quantify and understand the sources of near-term 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 an Earth system model. These forecasts exhibit the potential to predict year-to-year variations in the globally integrated air–sea CO2 flux several years in advance, as indicated by the high correlation of the forecasts with a model reconstruction of past CO2 flux evolution. This potential predictability exceeds that obtained solely from foreknowledge of variations in external forcing or a simple persistence forecast, with the longest-lasting forecast enhancement in the subantarctic Southern Ocean and the northern North Atlantic. Potential predictability in CO2 flux variations 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. The potential predictability, however, is not realized as predictive skill, as indicated by the moderate to low correlation of the forecasts with an observationally based CO2 flux product. Nevertheless, our results suggest that year-to-year variations in ocean carbon uptake have the potential to be predicted well in advance and establish a precedent for forecasting air–sea CO2 flux in the near future.

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Lovenduski, Nicole S. / Yeager, Stephen G. / Lindsay, Keith / et al: Predicting near-term variability in ocean carbon uptake. 2019. Copernicus Publications.

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Rechteinhaber: Nicole S. Lovenduski et al.

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