Articles | Volume 11, issue 22
Research article
24 Nov 2014
Research article |  | 24 Nov 2014

Diagnosing CO2 fluxes in the upwelling system off the Oregon–California coast

Z. Cao, M. Dai, W. Evans, J. Gan, and R. Feely

Abstract. It is generally known that the interplay between the carbon and nutrients supplied from subsurface waters via biological metabolism determines the CO2 fluxes in upwelling systems. However, quantificational assessment of such interplay is difficult because of the dynamic nature of both upwelling circulation and the associated biogeochemistry. We recently proposed a new framework, the Ocean-dominated Margin (OceMar), for semi-quantitatively diagnosing the CO2 source/sink nature of an ocean margin over a given period of time, highlighting that the relative consumption between carbon and nutrients determines if carbon is in excess (i.e., CO2 source) or in deficit (i.e., CO2 sink) in the upper waters of ocean margins relative to their off-site inputs from the adjacent open ocean. In the present study, such a diagnostic approach based upon both couplings of physics–biogeochemistry and carbon–nutrients was applied to resolve the CO2 fluxes in the well-known upwelling system off Oregon and northern California of the US west coast, using data collected along three cross-shelf transects from the inner shelf to the open basin in spring/early summer 2007. Through examining the biological consumption on top of the water mass mixing revealed by the total alkalinity–salinity relationship, we successfully predicted and semi-analytically resolved the CO2 fluxes showing strong uptake from the atmosphere beyond the nearshore regions. This CO2 sink nature primarily resulted from the higher utilization of nutrients relative to dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) based on their concurrent inputs from the depth. On the other hand, the biological responses to intensified upwelling were minor in nearshore waters off the Oregon–California coast, where significant CO2 outgassing was observed during the sampling period and resolving CO2 fluxes could be simplified without considering DIC/nutrient consumption, i.e., decoupling between upwelling and biological consumption. We reasoned that coupling physics and biogeochemistry in the OceMar model would assume a steady state with balanced DIC and nutrients via both physical transport and biological alterations in comparable timescales.

Final-revised paper