Constraining global air-sea gas exchange for CO2 with recent bomb 14C measurements

Colm Sweeney, Emanuel Gloor, Andrew R. Jacobson, Robert M. Key, Galen McKinley, Jorge Louis Sarmiento, Rik Wanninkhof

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406 Scopus citations


The 14CO2 released into the stratosphere during bomb testing in the early 1960s provides a global constraint on air-sea gas exchange of soluble atmospheric gases like C02. Using the most complete database of dissolved inorganic radiocarbon, DI 14C, available to date and a suite of ocean general circulation models in an inverse mode we recalculate the ocean inventory of bomb-produced DI 14C in the global ocean and confirm that there is a 25% decrease from previous estimates using older DI 14 C data sets. Additionally, we find a 33% lower globally averaged gas transfer velocity for C02 compared to previous estimates (Wanninkhof, 1992) using the NCEP/NCAR Reanalysis 1 1954-2000 where the global mean winds are 6.9 in s-1. Unlike some earlier ocean radiocarbon studies, the implied gas transfer velocity finally closes the gap between small-scale deliberate tracer studies and global-scale estimates. Additionally, the total inventory of bomb-produced radiocarbon in the ocean is now in agreement with global budgets based on radiocarbon measurements made in the stratosphere and troposphere. Using the implied relationship between wind speed and gas transfer velocity ks = 0.27 (u210) (Sc/660) -0.5 and standard partial pressure difference climatology Of C02 we obtain an net air-sea flux estimate of 1.3 ± 0.5 PgCyr-1 for 1995. After accounting for the carbon transferred from rivers to the deep ocean, our estimate of oceanic uptake (1.8 ± 0.5 PgCyr-1) compares well with estimates based on ocean inventories, ocean transport inversions using ocean concentration data, and model simulations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberGB2015
JournalGlobal Biogeochemical Cycles
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • General Environmental Science
  • Atmospheric Science


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