Himadri Saini

and 3 more

Antarctic ice core records suggest that atmospheric CO2 increased by 15 to 20 ppm during Heinrich stadials (HS). These periods of abrupt CO2 increase are associated with a significant weakening of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC), and a warming at high southern latitudes. As such, modelling studies have explored the link between changes in AMOC, high southern latitude climate and atmospheric CO2. While proxy records suggest that the aeolian iron input to the Southern Ocean decreased significantly during HS, the potential impact on CO2 of reduced iron input combined with oceanic circulation changes has not been studied in detail. Here, we quantify the respective and combined impacts of reduced iron fertilisation and AMOC weakening on CO2 by performing numerical experiments with an Earth system model under boundary conditions representing 40,000 years before present (ka). Our study indicates that reduced iron input can contribute up to 6 ppm rise in CO2 during an idealized Heinrich stadial. This is caused by a 5% reduction in nutrient utilisation in the Southern Ocean, leading to reduced export production and increased carbon outgassing from the Southern Ocean. An AMOC weakening under 40ka conditions and without changes in surface winds leads to a ~0.5 ppm CO2 increase. The combined impact of AMOC shutdown and weakened iron fertilisation is almost linear, leading to a total CO2 increase of 7 ppm. Therefore, this study highlights the need of including changes in aeolian iron input when studying the processes leading to changes in atmospheric CO2 concentration during HS.

Nathaniel Fillman

and 2 more

Realistic model representation of ocean phytoplankton is important for simulating nutrient cycles and the biological carbon pump, which affects atmospheric carbon dioxide (pCO2) concentrations and, thus, climate. Until recently, most models assumed constant ratios (or stoichiometry) of phosphorous (P), nitrogen (N), silicon (Si), and carbon (C) in phytoplankton, despite observations indicating systematic variations. Here, we investigate the effects of variable stoichiometry on simulated nutrient distributions, plankton community compositions, and the C cycle in the preindustrial (PI) and glacial oceans. Using a biogeochemical model, a linearly increasing P:N relation to increasing PO4 is implemented for ordinary phytoplankton (PO), and a nonlinearly decreasing Si:N relation to increasing Fe is applied to diatoms (PDiat). C:N remains fixed. Variable P:N affects modeled community composition through enhanced PO4 availability, which increases N-fixers in the oligotrophic ocean, consistent with previous research. This increases the NO3 fertilization of PO, the NO3 inventory, and the total plankton biomass. Surface nutrients are not significantly altered. Conversely, variable Si:N shifts south the Southern Ocean’s meridional surface silicate gradient, which aligns better with observations, but depresses PDiat growth globally. In Last Glacial Maximum simulations, PO respond to more oligotrophic conditions by increasing their C:P. This strengthens the biologically mediated C storage such that dissolved organic (inorganic) C inventories increase by 34-40 (38-50) Pg C and 0.7-1.2 Pg yr-1 more particulate C is exported into the interior ocean. Thus, an additional 13-14 ppm of pCO2 difference from PI levels results, improving model agreement with glacial observations.