Carbon Fluxes during Dansgaard-Oeschger Events as Simulated by an Earth System Model

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The Community Earth System Model with marine and terrestrial biogeochemistry is configured to simulate glacial climate. The integration shows transitions from warm to cold states}interstadials to stadials}and back. The amplitude of the associated Greenland and Antarctica temperature changes and the atmospheric CO2 signal are consistent with ice-core reconstructions, and so are the time lags between termination of a stadial, Antarctic temperature reversal, and the decline of the atmospheric CO2 concentration (for brevity's sake simply referred to as CO2 from here on). The present model results stand out because the transitions occur spontaneously (without forcing changes like hosing) and because they reproduce the observed features above in a configuration that uses the same parameterizations as climate simulations for the present day (i.e., no retuning has been done). During stadials, precipitation shifts lead to reduced growth on land, which dominates the CO2 increase; the ocean acts as a minor carbon sink during the stadials. After the end of the stadials, however, the sudden reversal of the stadial anomalies in temperature, wind, and precipitation turns the ocean into a carbon source, which accounts for the continued rise of CO2 for several hundred years into the interstadial. The simulations also provide a novel possible interpretation for the observed correlation between CO2 and Antarctic temperature: rather than both being controlled by Southern Ocean processes, they are both controlled by the North Atlantic Ocean, and most of the extra CO2 may not be of Southern Hemisphere origin. If the stadials are prolonged through North Atlantic hosing, the upper ocean comes to an equilibrium, and the CO2 response is dominated by a single process: reduced export production in the North Atlantic as result of the collapsed overturning circulation. This is in contrast to the unforced simulation where the net ocean carbon flux anomaly is the sum of several regional responses of both signs and similar magnitudes. Reducing the aeolian iron deposition by half, to account for the observed reduction of Southern Hemisphere dust fluxes during stadials, reduces biological productivity and export production so that the Southern Ocean emerges as an important carbon source, at least for the three centuries up until a new equilibrium for the upper ocean is reached.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number17
Pages (from-to)5745-5758
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 American Meteorological Society.

    Research areas

  • Climate variability, Ice age, Ocean

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