Natural climate variability impacts the multi-decadal uptake of anthropogenic carbon dioxide (Cant) into the North Atlantic Ocean subpolar and subtropical gyres. Previous studies have shown that there is significant uptake of CO2 into subtropical mode water (STMW) of the North Atlantic. STMW forms south of the Gulf Stream in winter and constitutes the dominant upper-ocean water mass in the subtropical gyre of the North Atlantic Ocean. Observations at the Bermuda Atlantic Time-series Study (BATS) site near Bermuda show an increase in dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) of +1.51 ± 0.08 μmol kg−1 yr−1 between 1988 and 2011, but also an increase in ocean acidification indicators such as pH at rates (−0.0022 ± 0.0002 yr−1) higher than the surface ocean (Bates et al., 2012). It is estimated that the sink of CO2 into STMW was 0.985 ± 0.018 Pg C (Pg = 1015 g C) between 1988 and 2011 (70 ± 1.8% of which is due to uptake of Cant). The sink of CO2 into the STMW is 20% of the CO2 uptake in the North Atlantic Ocean between 14°–50° N (Takahashi et al., 2009). However, the STMW sink of CO2 was strongly coupled to the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), with large uptake of CO2 into STMW during the 1990s during a predominantly NAO positive phase. In contrast, uptake of CO2 into STMW was much reduced in the 2000s during the NAO neutral/negative phase. Thus, NAO induced variability of the STMW CO2 sink is important when evaluating multi-decadal changes in North Atlantic Ocean CO2 sinks.
Bates N. R., 2012. Multi-decadal uptake of carbon dioxide into subtropical mode water of the North Atlantic Ocean. Biogeosciences 9: 2649-2659. Article.