Timing of the Departure of Ocean Biogeochemical Cycles from the Preindustrial State

Last modified: 
August 30, 2016 - 9:55am
Type: Journal Article
Year of publication: 2014
Date published: 11/2014
Authors: James Christian
Journal title: PLOS ONE
Volume: 9
Issue: 11
Pages: e109820

Changes in ocean chemistry and climate induced by anthropogenic CO2 affect a broad range of ocean biological and biogeochemical processes; these changes are already well underway. Direct effects of CO2 (e.g. on pH) are prominent among these, but climate model simulations with historical greenhouse gas forcing suggest that physical and biological processes only indirectly forced by CO2 (via the effect of atmospheric CO2 on climate) begin to show anthropogenically-induced trends as early as the 1920s. Dates of emergence of a number of representative ocean fields from the envelope of natural variability are calculated for global means and for spatial ‘fingerprints’ over a number of geographic regions. Emergence dates are consistent among these methods and insensitive to the exact choice of regions, but are generally earlier with more spatial information included. Emergence dates calculated for individual sampling stations are more variable and generally later, but means across stations are generally consistent with global emergence dates. The last sign reversal of linear trends calculated for periods of 20 or 30 years also functions as a diagnostic of emergence, and is generally consistent with other measures. The last sign reversal among 20 year trends is found to be a conservative measure (biased towards later emergence), while for 30 year trends it is found to have an early emergence bias, relative to emergence dates calculated by departure from the preindustrial mean. These results are largely independent of emission scenario, but the latest-emerging fields show a response to mitigation. A significant anthropogenic component of ocean variability has been present throughout the modern era of ocean observation.

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