The change in oceanic O2 inventory associated with recent global warming
Oceans general circulation models predict that global warming may cause a decrease in the oceanic O2 inventory and an associated O2 outgassing. An independent argument is presented here in support of this prediction based on observational evidence of the ocean's biogeochemical response to natural warming. On time scales from seasonal to centennial, natural O2 flux/heat flux ratios are shown to occur in a range of 2 to 10 nmol of O2 per joule of warming, with larger ratios typically occurring at higher latitudes and over longer time scales. The ratios are several times larger than would be expected solely from the effect of heating on the O2 solubility, indicating that most of the O2 exchange is biologically mediated through links between heating and stratification. The change in oceanic O2 inventory through the 1990s is estimated to be 0.3 ± 0.4 × 1014 mol of O2 per year based on scaling the observed anomalous long-term ocean warming by natural O2 flux/heating ratios and allowing for uncertainty due to decadal variability. Implications are discussed for carbon budgets based on observed changes in atmospheric O2/N2 ratio and based on observed changes in ocean dissolved inorganic carbon.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Science
- Pub Date:
- June 2002