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Southern Ocean Circulation and Atmospheric pCO2

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There is still no consensus for the mechanism responsible for the amplitude of the glacial/interglacial atmospheric pCO2 change as measured by Antarctic ice cores. As the major interconnection between the deep ocean basins, the Southern Ocean and its circulation is emerging as a potential candidate as the driver for such change. Here we examine the relevance of meso-scale ocean eddies to changing atmospheric pCO2. In particular, we reference the saturation effect of meso-scale eddies on the Southern Ocean circulation. In the context of a coarse resolution sector model of the ocean, we demonstrate that a crude parameterisation of changing meso-scale eddy activity with wind forcing attenuates the model’s pCO2 response. Using a carbon pump decomposition, we highlight the importance of considering air-sea disequilibrium, carbonate formation, and changes in ocean temperature, as well as soft tissue carbon in determining this pCO2 response. We close with a look ahead to some early eddy-permitting calculations at potentially multi-century to millennia time scales.

This talk is part of the British Antarctic Survey - Polar Oceans seminar series series.

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