Articles | Volume 10, issue 3
Biogeosciences, 10, 1815–1833, 2013
Biogeosciences, 10, 1815–1833, 2013

Research article 19 Mar 2013

Research article | 19 Mar 2013

Controls on the spatial distribution of oceanic δ13CDIC

P. B. Holden1, N. R. Edwards1, S. A. Müller2, K. I. C. Oliver2, R. M. Death3, and A. Ridgwell3 P. B. Holden et al.
  • 1Environment, Earth and Ecosystems, Open University, Milton Keynes, UK
  • 2Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK
  • 3School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK

Abstract. We describe the design and evaluation of a large ensemble of coupled climate–carbon cycle simulations with the Earth system model of intermediate complexity GENIE. This ensemble has been designed for application to a range of carbon cycle questions, including the causes of late-Quaternary fluctuations in atmospheric CO2. Here we evaluate the ensemble by applying it to a transient experiment over the recent industrial era (1858 to 2008 AD). We employ singular vector decomposition and principal component emulation to investigate the spatial modes of ensemble variability of oceanic dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) δ13C, considering both the spun-up pre-industrial state and the transient change. These analyses allow us to separate the natural (pre-industrial) and anthropogenic controls on the δ13CDIC distribution. We apply the same dimensionally-reduced emulation techniques to consider the drivers of the spatial uncertainty in anthropogenic DIC. We show that the sources of uncertainty related to the uptake of anthropogenic δ13CDIC and DIC are quite distinct. Uncertainty in anthropogenic δ13C uptake is controlled by air–sea gas exchange, which explains 63% of modelled variance. This mode of variability is largely absent from the ensemble variability in CO2 uptake, which is rather driven by uncertainties in thermocline ventilation rates. Although the need to account for air–sea gas exchange is well known, these results suggest that, to leading order, uncertainties in the ocean uptake of anthropogenic 13C and CO2 are governed by very different processes. This illustrates the difficulties in reconstructing one from the other, and furthermore highlights the need for careful targeting of both δ13CDIC and DIC observations to better constrain the ocean sink of anthropogenic CO2.

Final-revised paper