Articles | Volume 10, issue 4
Research article
23 Apr 2013
Research article |  | 23 Apr 2013

Analysis of a 39-year continuous atmospheric CO2 record from Baring Head, New Zealand

B. B. Stephens, G. W. Brailsford, A. J. Gomez, K. Riedel, S. E. Mikaloff Fletcher, S. Nichol, and M. Manning

Abstract. We present an analysis of a 39-year record of continuous atmospheric CO2 observations made at Baring Head, New Zealand, filtered for steady background CO2 mole fractions during southerly wind conditions. We discuss relationships between variability in the filtered CO2 time series and regional to global carbon cycling. Baring Head is well situated to sample air that has been isolated from terrestrial influences over the Southern Ocean, and experiences extended episodes of strong southerly winds with low CO2 variability. The filtered Baring Head CO2 record reveals an average seasonal cycle with amplitude of 0.95 ppm that is 13% smaller and 3 weeks earlier in phase than that at the South Pole. Seasonal variations in a given year are sensitive to the timing and magnitude of the combined influences of Southern Ocean CO2 fluxes and terrestrial fluxes from both hemispheres. The amplitude of the seasonal cycle varies throughout the record, but we find no significant long-term seasonal changes with respect to the South Pole. Interannual variations in CO2 growth rate in the Baring Head record closely match the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, reflecting the global reach of CO2 mole fraction anomalies associated with this cycle. We use atmospheric transport model results to investigate contributions to seasonal and annual-mean components of the observed CO2 record. Long-term trends in mean gradients between Baring Head and other stations are predominately due to increases in Northern Hemisphere fossil-fuel burning and Southern Ocean CO2 uptake, for which there remains a wide range of future estimates. We find that the postulated recent reduction in the efficiency of Southern Ocean anthropogenic CO2 uptake, as a result of increased zonal winds, is too small to be detectable as significant differences in atmospheric CO2 between mid to high latitude Southern Hemisphere observing stations.

Final-revised paper