Large reemergence of anthropogenic carbon into the ocean's surface mixed layer sustained by the ocean's overturning circulation

Katsuya Toyama, Keith B. Rodgers, Bruno Blanke, Daniele Iudicone, Masao Ishii, Olivier Aumont, Jorge Louis Sarmiento

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


We evaluate the output from a widely used ocean carbon cycle model to identify the subduction and obduction (reemergence) rates of anthropogenic carbon (Cant) for climatological conditions during the World Ocean Circulation Experiment (WOCE) era in 1995 using a new set of Lagrangian diagnostic tools. The principal scientific value of the Lagrangian diagnostics is in providing a new means to connect Cant reemergence pathways to the relatively rapid renewal time scales of mode waters through the overturning circulation. Our main finding is that for this model with 2.04 PgC yr-1 of uptake of Cant via gas exchange, the subduction and obduction rates across the base of the mixed layer (MLbase) are 4.96 and 4.50 PgC yr-1, respectively, which are twice as large as the gas exchange at the surface. Given that there is net accumulation of 0.17 PgC yr-1 in the mixed layer itself, this implies the residual downward Cant transport of 1.40 PgC yr-1 across the MLbase is associated with diffusion. Importantly, the net patterns for subduction and obduction transports of Cant mirror the large-scale patterns for transport of water volume, thereby illustrating the processes controlling Cant uptake. Although the net transfer across the MLbase by compensating subduction and obduction is relatively smaller than the diffusion, the localized pattern of Cant subduction and obduction implies significant regional impacts. The median time scale for reemergence of obducting particles is short (< 10 yr), indicating that reemergence should contribute to limiting future carbon uptake through its contribution to perturbing the Revelle factor for surface waters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8615-8631
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number21
StatePublished - Nov 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


  • Carbon cycle
  • Lagrangian circulation/transport
  • Meridional overturning circulation
  • Oceanic mixed layer
  • Upwelling/downwelling


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