Oceanic Carbon Dioxide Uptake in a Model of Century-Scale Global Warming

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Science  22 Nov 1996:
Vol. 274, Issue 5291, pp. 1346-1350
DOI: 10.1126/science.274.5291.1346


In a model of ocean-atmosphere interaction that excluded biological processes, the oceanic uptake of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) was substantially reduced in scenarios involving global warming relative to control scenarios. The primary reason for the reduced uptake was the weakening or collapse of the ocean thermohaline circulation. Such a large reduction in this ocean uptake would have a major impact on the future growth rate of atmospheric CO2. Model simulations that include a simple representation of biological processes show a potentially large offsetting effect resulting from the downward flux of biogenic carbon. However, the magnitude of the offset is difficult to quantify with present knowledge.