Underestimation of multi-decadal global O2 loss due to an optimal interpolation method

Takamitsu Ito, Hernan E. Garcia, Zhankun Wang, Shoshiro Minobe, Matthew C. Long, Just Cebrian, James Reagan, Tim Boyer, Christopher Paver, Courtney Bouchard, Yohei Takano, Seth Bushinsky, Ahron Cervania, Curtis A. Deutsch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The global ocean's oxygen content has declined significantly over the past several decades and is expected to continue decreasing under global warming, with far-reaching impacts on marine ecosystems and biogeochemical cycling. Determining the oxygen trend, its spatial pattern, and uncertainties from observations is fundamental to our understanding of the changing ocean environment. This study uses a suite of CMIP6 Earth system models to evaluate the biases and uncertainties in oxygen distribution and trends due to sampling sparseness. Model outputs are sub-sampled according to the spatial and temporal distribution of the historical shipboard measurements, and the data gaps are filled by a simple optimal interpolation method using Gaussian covariance with a constant e-folding length scale. Sub-sampled results are compared to full model output, revealing the biases in global and basin-wise oxygen content trends. The simple optimal interpolation underestimates the modeled global deoxygenation trends, capturing approximately two-thirds of the full model trends. The North Atlantic and subpolar North Pacific are relatively well sampled, and the simple optimal interpolation is capable of reconstructing more than 80% of the oxygen trend in the non-eddying CMIP models. In contrast, pronounced biases are found in the equatorial oceans and the Southern Ocean, where the sampling density is relatively low. The application of the simple optimal interpolation method to the historical dataset estimated the global oxygen loss to be 1.5% over the past 50 years. However, the ratio of the global oxygen trend between the sub-sampled and full model output has increased the estimated loss rate in the range of 1.7% to 3.1% over the past 50 years, which partially overlaps with previous studies. The approach taken in this study can provide a framework for the intercomparison of different statistical gap-filling methods to estimate oxygen content trends and their uncertainties due to sampling sparseness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)747-759
Number of pages13
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 12 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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