Current and future decadal trends in the oceanic carbon uptake are dominated by internal variability

2017 - Geophysical Research Letters


Hongmei Li, Tatiana Ilyina


We investigate the internal decadal variability of the ocean carbon uptake using 100 ensemble simulations based on the Max Planck Institute Earth system model (MPI-ESM). We find that on decadal time scales, internal variability (ensemble spread) is as large as the forced temporal variability (ensemble mean), and the largest internal variability is found in major carbon sink regions, that is, the 50–65°S band of the Southern Ocean, the North Pacific, and the North Atlantic. The MPI-ESM ensemble produces both positive and negative 10 year trends in the ocean carbon uptake in agreement with observational estimates. Negative decadal trends are projected to occur in the future under RCP4.5 scenario. Due to the large internal variability, the Southern Ocean and the North Pacific require the most ensemble members (more than 53 and 46, respectively) to reproduce the forced decadal trends. This number increases up to 79 in future decades as CO2 emission trajectory changes.