Oceanic primary production decline halved in eddy-resolving simulations of global warming

Couespel, Damien; Lévy, Marina; Bopp, Laurent

The decline in ocean primary production is one of the most alarming consequences of anthropogenic climate change. This decline could indeed lead to a decrease in marine biomass and fish catch, as highlighted by recent policy-relevant reports. Because of computational constraints, current Earth system models used to project ocean primary production under global warming scenarios have to parameterize flows occurring below the resolution of their computational grid (typically 1inline-formula). To overcome these computational constraints, we use an ocean biogeochemical model in an idealized configuration representing a mid-latitude double-gyre circulation and perform global warming simulations under an increasing horizontal resolution (from 1 to inline-formula M2inlinescrollmathml normal 1 / normal 27 27pt14ptsvg-formulamathimg22b1500ba45a54a6b0a7373f44a0934c bg-18-4321-2021-ie00001.svg27pt14ptbg-18-4321-2021-ie00001.png inline-formula) and under a large range of parameter values for the eddy parameterization employed in the coarse-resolution configuration. In line with projections from Earth system models, all our simulations project a marked decline in net primary production in response to the global warming forcing. Whereas this decline is only weakly sensitive to the eddy parameters in the eddy-parameterized coarse 1inline-formula resolution simulations, the simulated decline in primary production in the subpolar gyre is halved at the finest eddy-resolving resolution (inline-formula−12 % at 1/27inline-formula vs. inline-formula−26 % at 1inline-formula) at the end of the 70-year-long global warming simulations. This difference stems from the high sensitivity of the sub-surface nutrient transport to model resolution. Although being only one piece of a much broader and more complicated response of the ocean to climate change, our results call for improved representation of the role of eddies in nutrient transport below the seasonal mixed layer to better constrain the future evolution of marine biomass and fish catch potential.

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Couespel, Damien / Lévy, Marina / Bopp, Laurent: Oceanic primary production decline halved in eddy-resolving simulations of global warming. 2021. Copernicus Publications.

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