Articles | Volume 6, issue 1
29 Jan 2010
 | 29 Jan 2010

Spatiotemporal variations of fCO2 in the North Sea

A. M. Omar, A. Olsen, T. Johannessen, M. Hoppema, H. Thomas, and A. V. Borges

Abstract. Data from two Voluntary Observing Ship (VOS) (2005–2007) augmented with data subsets from ten cruises (1987–2005) were used to investigate the spatiotemporal variations of the CO2 fugacity in seawater (fCO2sw) in the North Sea at seasonal and inter-annual time scales. The observed seasonal fCO2sw variations were related to variations in sea surface temperature (SST), biology plus mixing, and air-sea CO2 exchange. Over the study period, the seasonal amplitude in fCO2sw induced by SST changes was 0.4–0.75 times those resulting from variations in biology plus mixing. Along a meridional transect, fCO2sw normally decreased northwards (−12 μatm per degree latitude), but the gradient disappeared/reversed during spring as a consequence of an enhanced seasonal amplitude of fCO2sw in southern parts of the North Sea. Along a zonal transect, a weak gradient (−0.8 μatm per degree longitude) was observed in the annual mean fCO2sw. Annually and averaged over the study area, surface waters of the North Sea were CO2 undersaturated and, thus, a sink of atmospheric CO2. However, during summer, surface waters in the region 55.5–54.5° N were CO2 supersaturated and, hence, a source for atmospheric CO2. Comparison of fCO2sw data acquired within two 1°×1° regions in the northern and southern North Sea during different years (1987, 2001, 2002, and 2005–2007) revealed large interannual variations, especially during spring and summer when year-to-year fCO2sw differences (≈160–200 μatm) approached seasonal changes (≈200–250 μatm). The springtime variations resulted from changes in magnitude and timing of the phytoplankton bloom, whereas changes in SST, wind speed and total alkalinity may have contributed to the summertime interannual fCO2sw differences. The lowest interannual variation (10–50 μatm) was observed during fall and early winter. Comparison with data reported in October 1967 suggests that the fCO2sw growth rate in the central North Sea was similar to that in the atmosphere.