Interannual variability in the wintertime air–sea flux of carbon dioxide in the northern North Atlantic, 1981–2001
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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- Geophysical Institute 
Gridded fields of sea surface temperature (SST), sea level pressure (SLP), and wind speed were used in combination with data for the atmospheric mole fraction of CO2 and an empirical relationship between measured values of the fugacity of carbon dioxide in surface water and SST, to calculate the air–sea CO2 flux in the northern North Atlantic. The flux was calculated for each of the months October–March, in the time period 1981 until 2001, allowing for an assessment of the interannual variations in the region. Locally and on a monthly time scale, the interannual variability of the flux could be as high as ±100% in regions seasonally covered by sea ice. However, in open-ocean areas the variability was normally between ±20% and ±40%. The interannual variability was found to be approximately halved when fluxes averaged over each winter season were compared. Summarised over the whole northern North Atlantic, the air to sea carbon flux over winter totalled 0.08 Gton, with an interannual variability of about ±7%. On a monthly basis the interannual variations were slightly higher, about ±8% to ±13%. Changes in wind speed and atmospheric fCO2 (the latter directly related to SLP variations) accounted for most of the interannual variations of the computed air–sea CO2 fluxes. A tendency for increasing CO2 flux into the ocean with increasing values of the NAO index was identified.