Anthropogenic Carbon: Temporal Increase, Obervations and Numerization
( 26-Aoû-2003 /cJ) 





In this ACTION project, we have assembled a team of well-known scientists with complementary skills (experimentalists and modellers). We will quantify the seasonal and interannual variations of the CO2 flux across the air-sea interface of the Mediterranean Sea, we will use a high resolution physical model coupled with a biochemical model to estimate the current and future carbon uptake and storage in the Mediterranean Sea, and we will estimate the distribution of anthropogenic carbon in the Mediterranean Sea. In this work we will use the following complementary tools: historical data sets, new in situ data sets both from discrete measurements and continual measurements from Buoys, satellite data sets, and modelling. Three experimental sites are selected for temporal studies: DYFAMED, SOLA (SOMLIT) and off ISMAL. DYFAMED will be taken as representative of offshore conditions with restricted advection, whereas SOLA will be taken as representative of littoral areas where biogeochemical processes are submitted to intense physical stressors.



In order to predict the magnitude of future climate change resulting from greenhouse gas emissions, it is necessary to acquire an accurate knowledge of CO2 fluxes across the ocean-atmosphere interface and of the ocean carbon storage efficiency. Today there are three main approaches to estimate the penetration of carbon in the ocean; 1) based on CO2 partial pressure measurements in the surface ocean (Takahashi et al., 1997), 2) based on global ocean modelling (Sarmiento et al., 1992; Siegenthaler and Joos, 1992; Stocker et al., 1994), and 3) based on calculations of anthropogenic carbon concentrations (Brewer, 1978; Chen and Millero, 1979; Gruber et al., 1996; Goyet et al., 1999). Given the uncertainty associated with each of these approaches, there is no preferred approach.

Over the past decade, the international global CO2 survey based on the collaboration of the WOCE and JGOFS programs, provided an accurate baseline of carbon content in the ocean and allowed to characterize on a global scale the transport of inorganic carbon within the ocean and across the ocean-atmosphere. There is now a need to refine these estimates. In particular, there is a need to better understand the role of coastal areas and small basins like the Mediterranean Sea.

Due to the proximity of population centres and concomitant societal emissions to coastal waters, anthropogenic impacts on these coastal waters are likely to be important. Altered climate and hydrological cycles could provoke major physical and biogeochemical changes in coastal areas.

The ACTION project will focus on the Mediterranean Sea which is a strategic area for all bordering countries. Its coast is one of the most heavily populated regions of the world. A large part of a coastal nation’s gross national product is produced through fishing, transportation, recreation, and other industries that depend on a healthy marine coastal environment.

From a purely practical point of view, most laboratories involved in the project (CEFREM, Laboratoire Arago, and LOV) are located on the french mediterranean coast. From a scientific point of view, however, the Mediterranean Sea shows several advantages to analyse and understand its response to the anthropogenic CO2 increase:

Therefore we propose to quantify the uptake and storage of carbon by the Mediterranean sea using the three main approaches; A1) estimation of CO2 fluxes across the air-sea interface from surface pCO2 measurements, and A3) estimation of anthropogenic carbon concentrations from carbon and hydrographic data.

Most goals of ACTION correspond to the first and the second theme of the PROOF proposal.



Most studies conducted in the Mediterranean Sea on the carbonate system were summarized by Copin-Montégut (1993) and Bégovic (2001). The work performed at the DYFAMED station (in the Liguro-Provençal basin) is part of the JGOFS-French programme. Monthly measurements of numerous hydrological and biogeochemical variables (alkalinity, pH, etc.) are available for several years at depths between sea surface and 2000 m. Additional data of surface pCO2 were also collected along the Nice-Calvi transect (realized 22 times in 3 years) and at the DYFAMED station using a CARBON buoy during the periods February-May and October 1999 (continuous measurements). In addition, the METEOR (January-February 1995) and PROSOPE (September-October 1999) cruises provide the horizontal distribution of sea surface pCO2 for a large part of the Mediterranean Sea.

Results from Bégovic (2001) illustrate the large meso-scale variability of the pCO2 in surface waters. However additional data sets on the carbonate system are needed at different locations and time scales in order to improve our knowledge on the marine carbon cycle over the whole Mediterranean Sea.


In order to quantify the CO2 flux across the air-sea interface of the Mediterranean Sea we plan to determine the partial pressure of CO2 (pCO2) in surface seawater of several locations and on various time scales. We plan to place a CARBON buoy at the DYFAMED station in order to continually measure pCO2 there. This will allow us to continue the work of Copin-Montegut and Begovic and to quantify both the CO2 flux and its inter-annual variations in this area. These data will also be used to validate results from the model. We plan to place another CARBON buoy at the entrance of the liguro-provencal current in the Gulf of Lions in order to quantify the seasonal carbon flux there and provide a limit condition to the model. In addition we will calculate pCO2 from discrete measurements of TCO2 and TA at the SOLA station and surface water off Alger. We have also proposed to set up a pCO2 system on the R/V TETHYS based in the Mediterranean Sea. In addition we plan to request shipping time for a cruise across the Mediterranean Sea in the third year of this project (see below section 6). Surface pCO2 data from this cruise will be used with the other data sets and satellite ocean color and SST data to extrapolate the CO2 flux over the whole Mediterranean Sea.


About one-third of the carbon dioxide (2 Pg C/yr) we emit into the atmosphere is already being sequestered naturally by the ocean by the process of CO2 gas transfer across the air-sea interface. Over twenty years ago Brewer (1978) and Chen and Millero (1979) presented the first fundamental estimates of anthropogenic CO2 in the ocean based on the hypothesis of CO2 penetration along isopycnal surfaces and observations of total inorganic carbon (TCO2) and total alkalinity (TA). At that time the anthropogenic CO2 signal was not as large as today and given the uncertainty of the approach, the uncertainties of the results were generally regarded as relatively large (Shiller, 1981; Broecker et al., 1985). However, since then, variations of this approach have been used to estimate anthropogenic CO2 in many areas of the world ocean (Chen, 1982; Papaud and Poisson, 1986; Poisson and Chen, 1987; Chen, 1993; Goyet and Brewer, 1993; Tsunogai et al., 1993; Wallace, 1995; Gruber et al., 1996; Peng et al., 1998; Goyet et al., 1998; Gruber, 1998; Sabine et al., 1999).

A comparison of the estimates from Chen (1993) based on the original approach (Chen and Millero, 1979), and from Gruber, (1998) and Sabine et al., (1999) based on the “improved” approach that uses transient tracers to estimate ventilation ages (Gruber et al., 1996), shows the similarity and differences in the results (Chen, 2000). The similarity is in the overall global estimate of the quantity of anthropogenic CO2 present in the ocean. The main differences are in the locations of penetration and storage of anthropogenic CO2 in the ocean. Results from another approach based on mixing of water masses (Goyet et al., 1999) also reveal differences in the location of anthropogenic CO2 in the ocean (Coatanoan et al., 2001). In the northern Indian Ocean, the depth of anthropogenic CO2 penetration is estimated significantly deeper (by ~ 300m) using the approach from Sabine et al., (1999) than using the approach from Goyet et al., (1999).

Overall, the important studies cited above demonstrate that not only the ocean continuously absorbs anthropogenic CO2 gas from the atmosphere but also that today it is possible to estimate the amount of anthropogenic CO2 in the global ocean. The Atlantic Ocean, which contains approximately 41 + 6, PgC absorbs about twice as much anthropogenic CO2 as the Indian Ocean and about 1.15 times more anthropogenic CO2 than the Pacific Ocean. Comparison of ocean model results with observation-based estimates is an essential step in building confidence in the model’s predictive capabilities. However, key to predicting the impact and efficacy of natural or induced carbon sequestration in the ocean, is the accurate simulation of both physical and biochemical oceanographic processes. For instance, marine biota plays important roles in moving carbon across isopycnals.

If it is now potentially possible to quantify the anthropogenic carbon content in the Mediterranean Sea, it has not been done yet. We therefore propose to estimate it using three approaches; 1) using the isopycnal hypothesis (Brewer, 1978; Chen and Millero, 1979; Gruber et al., 1996), 2) using the water-mass mixing hypothesis (Goyet et al., 1999), and 3) using a modeling approach with varying scenarios.


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