Predicting the variable ocean carbon sink

2019 - Science Advances 17 Apr 2019: Vol. 5, no. 4


Li, H.

Additional authors:

Ilyina, T., Müller, W.A., Landschützer, P.


DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aav6471


Strong decadal variations in the oceanic uptake of carbon dioxide (CO2) observed over the past three decades challenge our ability to predict the strength of the ocean carbon sink. By assimilating atmospheric and oceanic observational data products into an Earth system model–based decadal prediction system, we can reproduce the observed variations of the ocean carbon uptake globally. We find that variations of the ocean CO2 uptake are predictable up to 2 years in advance globally, albeit there is evidence for a higher predictive skill up to 5 years regionally. We further suggest that while temperature variations largely determine shorter-term (<3 years) predictability, nonthermal drivers are responsible for longer-term (>3 years) predictability, especially at high latitudes.