Abstract

The Southern Ocean (SO) contributes most of the uncertainty in contemporary estimates of the mean annual flux of carbon dioxide CO2 between the ocean and the atmosphere. Attempts to reduce this uncertainty have aimed at resolving the seasonal cycle of the fugacity of CO2 (fCO2). We use hourly CO2 flux and driver observations collected by the combined deployment of ocean gliders to show that resolving the seasonal cycle is not sufficient to reduce the uncertainty of the flux of CO2 to below the threshold required to reveal climatic trends in CO2 fluxes. This was done by iteratively subsampling the hourly CO2 data set at various time intervals. We show that because of storm-linked intraseasonal variability in the spring-late summer, sampling intervals longer than 2 days alias the seasonal mean flux estimate above the required threshold. Moreover, the regional nature and long-term trends in storm characteristics may be an important influence in the future role of the SO in the carbon-climate system.

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The spatial variability of the FCO2 uncertainties, which arise from a uniform 10 day sampling period choice. The Southern Ocean is characterized with uncertainties of 10–25% (10–25 μmol m2 h1) at this sampling period.

The spatial variability of the FCO2 uncertainties, which arise from a uniform 10 day sampling period choice. The Southern Ocean is characterized with uncertainties of 10–25% (10–25 μmol m2 h1) at this sampling period.

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