High-resolution modelling of long-term trends in the oxygen and carbon cycles of the Benguela upwelling system
Abstract. We investigate driving forces of the biogeochemistry of the Benguela upwelling system (BUS) and their temporal changes over the 20th century. For this purpose, we developed a global ocean-only model in a stretched grid configuration, which resolves meso-scale circulation structures in the area of interest. The biogeochemical module of this model is extended by a more comprehensive nitrogen cycle to account for the specific nitrogen loss processes common in eastern upwelling systems. The model is forced by 110 years of atmospheric reanalysis data. To assess the impact of meso-scale circulation structures on local biogeochemical processes we compare our results to a set-up with a coarser horizontal resolution, comparable to the ocean component of Earth system models used for anthropogenic climate projections. In the higher spatial resolution we find enhanced intermediate depth ventilation (200–1000 m) with concurrent reduced loss of bioavailable nitrogen and a high shelfbound biological production, in line with observations. Moreover, only in the high resolution setup do multi-decadal trends of deoxygenation match observation-based estimates. Our study supports the view that the presence of meso-scale circulation structures exerts a major influence on biogeochemical patterns, especially on mid-depth oxygen concentrations. Furthermore, we show for the first time that by including this high spatio-temporal variability of the circulation, the regional anthropogenic carbon uptake of the BUS over the 20th century is lower than in the coarse resolution model. This indicates that, at least for some regions, the pathway of changes in the marine biogeochemistry as projected by state-of-the-art coarse resolution Earth system models is associated with high uncertainty.
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