Drake Passage and Central American Seaway controls on the distribution of the oceanic carbon reservoir
A coupled carbon/climate model is used to explore the impact of Drake Passage opening and Central American Seaway closure on the distribution of carbon in the global oceans. We find that gateway evolution likely played an important role in setting the modern day distribution of oceanic dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC), which is currently characterized by relatively low concentrations in the Atlantic Ocean, and high concentrations in the Southern, Indian, and Pacific oceans. In agreement with previous studies, we find a closed Drake Passage in the presence of an open Central American Seaway results in suppressed Atlantic meridional overturning and enhanced southern hemispheric deep convection. Opening of the Drake Passage triggers Antarctic Circumpolar Current flow and a weak Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC). Subsequent Central American Seaway closure reinforces the AMOC while also stagnating equatorial Pacific subsurface waters. These gateway-derived oceanographic changes are reflected in large shifts to the global distribution of DIC. An initially closed Drake Passage results in high DIC concentrations in the Atlantic and Arctic oceans, and lower DIC concentrations in the Pacific/Indian/Southern oceans. Opening Drake Passage reverses this gradient by lowering mid-depth Atlantic and Arctic DIC concentrations and raising deep Pacific/Indian/Southern Ocean DIC concentrations. Central American Seaway closure further reinforces this trend through additional Atlantic mid-depth DIC decreases, as well as Pacific mid-depth DIC concentration increases, with the net effect being a transition to a modern distribution of oceanic DIC.