Articles | Volume 5, issue 1
06 Feb 2008
 | 06 Feb 2008

Inter-annual variability of the carbon dioxide oceanic sink south of Tasmania

A. V. Borges, B. Tilbrook, N. Metzl, A. Lenton, and B. Delille

Abstract. We compiled a large data-set from 22 cruises spanning from 1991 to 2003, of the partial pressure of CO2 (pCO2) in surface waters over the continental shelf (CS) and adjacent open ocean (43° to 46° S; 145° to 150° E), south of Tasmania. Climatological seasonal cycles of pCO2 in the CS, the subtropical zone (STZ) and the subAntarctic zone (SAZ) are described and used to determine monthly pCO2 anomalies. These are used in combination with monthly anomalies of sea surface temperature (SST) to investigate inter-annual variations of SST and pCO2. Monthly anomalies of SST (as intense as 2°C) are apparent in the CS, STZ and SAZ, and are indicative of strong inter-annual variability that seems to be related to large-scale coupled atmosphere-ocean oscillations. Anomalies of pCO2 normalized to a constant temperature are negatively related to SST anomalies. A reduced winter-time vertical input of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) during phases of positive SST anomalies, related to a poleward shift of westerly winds, and a concomitant local decrease in wind stress is the likely cause of the negative relationship between pCO2 and SST anomalies. The observed pattern is an increase of the sink for atmospheric CO2 associated with positive SST anomalies, although strongly modulated by inter-annual variability of wind speed. Assuming that phases of positive SST anomalies are indicative of the future evolution of regional ocean biogeochemistry under global warming, we show using a purely observational based approach that some provinces of the Southern Ocean could provide a potential negative feedback on increasing atmospheric CO2.

Final-revised paper