A Stratification Boomerang: Nonlinear Dependence of Deep Southern Ocean Ventilation on PCO2

Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 11:20 AM
Eric D Galbraith and Timothy M Merlis, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada
Strong correlations between atmospheric CO2, Antarctic temperatures, and marine proxy records have hinted that ventilation of the deep Southern Ocean may have played a central role in the variations of CO2 over glacial-interglacial cycles. One proposition is that, in general, the Southern Ocean ventilates the deep more strongly under higher CO2, due to a change in winds and/or the dominance of thermal stratification in a warm ocean, which weakens ocean biological carbon storage. Here, we explore this idea with a suite of multi-millennial simulations using the GFDL CM2Mc global coupled model. The results are, indeed, consistent with increasing ventilation of the Southern Ocean as pCO2 increases above modern. However, they reveal a surprising twist under low pCO2: increased salinity of the Southern Ocean, due in part to weakening atmospheric moisture transport, actually increases ventilation rate of the deep ocean under low pCO2 as well. This implies that a nadir of Southern Ocean ventilation occurs at intermediate pCO2, which the model estimates as being close to that of the present-day. This is at odds with the interpretation that weak ventilation of the deep Southern Ocean was the unifying coupled mechanism for the glacial pCO2 cycles. Rather, it suggests that factors other than the ventilation rate of the deep Southern Ocean, such as iron fertilization, ecosystem changes, water mass distributions, and sea ice cover, were key players in the glacial-interglacial CO2 changes.