Variability in a four-network composite of atmospheric CO2 differences between three primary baseline sites
Spatial differences in the monthly baseline CO2 since 1992 from Mauna Loa (mlo, 19.5∘ N, 155.6∘ W, 3379 m), Cape Grim (cgo, 40.7∘ S, 144.7∘ E, 94 m), and South Pole (spo, 90∘ S, 2810 m) are examined for consistency between four monitoring networks. For each site pair, a composite based on the average of NOAA, CSIRO, and two independent Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) analysis methods is presented. Averages of the monthly standard deviations are 0.25, 0.23, and 0.16 ppm for mlo–cgo, mlo–spo, and cgo–spo respectively. This high degree of consistency and near-monthly temporal differentiation (compared to CO2 growth rates) provide an opportunity to use the composite differences for verification of global carbon cycle model simulations. Interhemispheric CO2 variation is predominantly imparted by the mlo data. The peaks and dips of the seasonal variation in interhemispheric difference act largely independently. The peaks mainly occur in May, near the peak of Northern Hemisphere (NH) terrestrial photosynthesis/respiration cycle. February–April is when interhemispheric exchange via eddy processes dominates, with increasing contributions from mean transport via the Hadley circulation into boreal summer (May–July). The dips occur in September, when the CO2 partial pressure difference is near zero. The cross-equatorial flux variation is large and sufficient to significantly influence short-term Northern Hemisphere growth rate variations. However, surface–air terrestrial flux anomalies would need to be up to an order of magnitude larger than found to explain the peak and dip CO2 difference variations. Features throughout the composite CO2 difference records are inconsistent in timing and amplitude with air–surface fluxes but are largely consistent with interhemispheric transport variations. These include greater variability prior to 2010 compared to the remarkable stability in annual CO2 interhemispheric difference in the 5-year relatively El Niño-quiet period 2010–2014 (despite a strong La Niña in 2011), and the 2017 recovery in the CO2 interhemispheric gradient from the unprecedented El Niño event in 2015–2016.