Hydrological cycle amplification imposes spatial pattern on climate change response of ocean pH and carbonate chemistry

Hogikyan, Allison; Resplandy, Laure

Ocean CO 2 uptake and acidification in response to human activities are driven primarily by the rise in atmospheric CO 2, but are also modulated by climate change. Existing work suggests that this `climate effect' influences the uptake and storage of anthropogenic carbon and acidification via the global increase in ocean temperature, although some regional responses have been attributed to changes in circulation or biological activity. Here, we investigate spatial patterns in the climate effect on surface-ocean acidification (and the closely related carbonate chemistry) in an Earth System Model under a rapid CO 2-increase scenario, and identify another culprit. We show that the amplification of the hydrological cycle, a robustly simulated feature of climate change, is largely responsible for the spatial patterns in this climate effect at the sea surface. This `hydrological effect' can be understood as a subset of the total climate effect which includes warming, hydrological cycle amplification, circulation and biological changes. We demonstrate that it acts through two primary mechanisms: (i) directly diluting or concentrating dissolved ions by adding or removing freshwater and (ii) altering the sea surface temperature, which influences the solubility of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) and acidity of seawater. The hydrological effect opposes acidification in salinifying regions, most notably the subtropical Atlantic, and enhances acidification in freshening regions such as the western Pacific. Its single strongest effect is to dilute the negative ions that buffer the dissolution of CO 2, quantified as `Alkalinity'. The local changes in Alkalinity, DIC, and pH linked to the pattern of hydrological cycle amplification are as strong as the (largely uniform) changes due to warming, explaining the weak increase in pH and DIC seen in the climate effect in the subtropical Atlantic Ocean.

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Hogikyan, Allison / Resplandy, Laure: Hydrological cycle amplification imposes spatial pattern on climate change response of ocean pH and carbonate chemistry. 2024. Copernicus Publications.

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