Sudden emergence of a shallow aragonite saturation horizon in the Southern Ocean

Type Article
Date 2019-04
Language English
Author(s) Negrete-Garcia Gabriela1, 2, 8, Lovenduski Nicole S.1, 2, Hauri ClaudineORCID3, Krumhardt Kristen M.2, 4, 9, Lauvset Siv K.ORCID5, 6, 7
Affiliation(s) 1 : Univ Colorado, Dept Atmospher & Ocean Sci, Boulder, CO 80309 USA.
2 : Univ Colorado, Inst Arctic & Alpine Res, Boulder, CO 80309 USA.
3 : Univ Alaska Fairbanks, Int Arctic Res Ctr, Fairbanks, AK USA.
4 : Univ Colorado, Environm Studies Program, Boulder, CO 80309 USA.
5 : NORCE Norwegian Res Ctr, Bjerknes Ctr Climate Res, Bergen, Norway.
6 : Univ Bergen, Geophys Inst, Bergen, Norway.
7 : Bjerknes Ctr Climate Res, Bergen, Norway.
8 : Scripps Inst Oceanog, Integrat Oceanog Div, La Jolla, CA USA.
9 : Natl Ctr Atmospher Res, Climate & Global Dynam Lab, POB 3000, Boulder, CO 80307 USA.
Source Nature Climate Change (1758-678X) (Nature Publishing Group), 2019-04 , Vol. 9 , N. 4 , P. 313-317
DOI 10.1038/s41558-019-0418-8
WOS© Times Cited 26

Models project that with current CO2 emission rates, the Southern Ocean surface will be undersaturated with respect to aragonite by the end of this century(1-4). This will result in widespread impacts on biogeochemistry and ocean ecosystems(5-7), particularly the health of aragonitic organisms, such as pteropods(7), which can dominate polar surface water communities(6). Here, we quantify the depth of the present-day Southern Ocean aragonite saturation horizon using hydrographic and ocean carbon chemistry observations, and use a large ensemble of simulations from the Community Earth System Model (CESM)(8,9) to track its evolution. A new, shallow aragonite saturation horizon emerges in many Southern Ocean locations between now and the end of the century. While all ensemble members capture the emergence, internal climate variability may affect the year of emergence; thus, its detection may have been overlooked by ensemble average analysis in the past. The emergence of the new horizon is driven by the slow accumulation of anthropogenic CO2 in the Southern Ocean thermocline, where the carbonate ion concentration exhibits a local minimum and approaches undersaturation. The new horizon is also apparent under an emission-stabilizing scenario indicating an inevitable, sudden decrease in the volume of suitable habitat for aragonitic organisms.

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