Articles | Volume 15, issue 7
Biogeosciences, 15, 2161–2175, 2018
Biogeosciences, 15, 2161–2175, 2018

Research article 13 Apr 2018

Research article | 13 Apr 2018

Constraints on global oceanic emissions of N2O from observations and models

Erik T. Buitenhuis1,2, Parvadha Suntharalingam1, and Corinne Le Quéré1,2 Erik T. Buitenhuis et al.
  • 1School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK
  • 2Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK

Abstract. We estimate the global ocean N2O flux to the atmosphere and its confidence interval using a statistical method based on model perturbation simulations and their fit to a database of ΔpN2O (n =  6136). We evaluate two submodels of N2O production. The first submodel splits N2O production into oxic and hypoxic pathways following previous publications. The second submodel explicitly represents the redox transformations of N that lead to N2O production (nitrification and hypoxic denitrification) and N2O consumption (suboxic denitrification), and is presented here for the first time. We perturb both submodels by modifying the key parameters of the N2O cycling pathways (nitrification rates; NH4+ uptake; N2O yields under oxic, hypoxic and suboxic conditions) and determine a set of optimal model parameters by minimisation of a cost function against four databases of N cycle observations. Our estimate of the global oceanic N2O flux resulting from this cost function minimisation derived from observed and model ΔpN2O concentrations is 2.4 ± 0.8 and 2.5 ± 0.8 Tg N yr−1 for the two N2O submodels. These estimates suggest that the currently available observational data of surface ΔpN2O constrain the global N2O flux to a narrower range relative to the large range of results presented in the latest IPCC report.

Short summary
Thanks to decreases in CFC concentrations, N2O is now the third-most important greenhouse gas, and the dominant contributor to stratospheric ozone depletion. Here we estimate the ocean–atmosphere N2O flux. We find that an estimate based on observations alone has a large uncertainty. By combining observations and a range of model simulations we find that the uncertainty is much reduced to 2.45 ± 0.8 Tg N yr−1, and better constrained and at the lower end of the estimate in the latest IPCC report.
Final-revised paper