Suppressed pCO2 in the Southern Ocean Due to the Interaction Between Current and Wind

Kyungmin Kwak, Hajoon Song, John Marshall, Hyodae Seo, Dennis J. McGillicuddy

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3 Citations (Scopus)


The Southern Ocean, an important region for the uptake of anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2), features strong surface currents due to substantial mesoscale meanders and eddies. These features interact with the wind and modify the momentum transfer from the atmosphere to the ocean. Although such interactions are known to reduce momentum transfer, their impact on air-sea carbon exchange remains unclear. Using a 1/20° physical-biogeochemical coupled ocean model, we examined the impact of the current-wind interaction on the surface carbon concentration and the air-sea carbon exchange in the Southern Ocean. The current-wind interaction decreased winter partial pressure of CO2 (pCO2) at the ocean surface mainly south of the northern subantarctic front. It also reduced pCO2 in summer, indicating enhanced uptake, but not to the same extent as the winter loss. Consequently, the net outgassing of CO2 was found to be reduced by approximately 17% when including current-wind interaction. These changes stem from the combined effect of vertical mixing and Ekman divergence. A budget analysis of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) revealed that a weakening of vertical mixing by current-wind interaction reduces the carbon supply from below, and particularly so in winter. The weaker wind stress additionally lowers the subsurface DIC concentration in summer, which can affect the vertical diffusive flux of carbon in winter. Our study suggests that ignoring current-wind interactions in the Southern Ocean can overestimate winter CO2 outgassing.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2021JC017884
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Dec

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Oceanography


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