RAGNARoCC: Radiatively active gases from the North Atlantic Region and Climate Change

Lead Research Organisation: University of Southampton
Department Name: School of Ocean and Earth Science

Abstract

Our object is to understand how large, and how variable, are sources and sinks of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere from the North Atlantic. We aim to be able to describe how these have changed in the recent past and how they will change in the future under different climate scenarios. Most effort will be concentrated on carbon dioxide, and we will deliver a comprehensive budgeting of natural and anthropogenic components of the carbon cycle in the North Atlantic and understanding of why the air-sea fluxes of CO2 vary regionally, seasonally and multi-annually. Observations of CH4 and N2O and estimates of their regional fluxes will additionally be made. We, in collaboration with our partner institutions in Europe and the US, will undertake surface measurements of CO2 air-sea fluxes made from networks of voluntary observing ships and at fixed sites. These will be synthesised with observations from hydrographic sections of the interior carbon content. We will thus obtain accurate estimates of the uptake, present storage, and net transport of anthropogenic carbon, and variability in the natural uptake and release of atmospheric CO2 by the N. Atlantic. In parallel with direct estimates made from these observations, forward and inverse models (of both atmospheric and oceanic kinds) of these fluxes will be developed. The main hypotheses are (1) that past uptake and variability of CO2 in the region can be quantified by examination of the deep carbon inventory in the Atlantic, (2) that the present observed variability in CO2 uptake is due to a combination of biological and physical processes that are driven by climatic variations, the main factors being captured by ocean carbon simulations embedded in climate models, and (3) these variations (past, present and future) are due to a combination of variability internal to the climate system and external anthropogenic forcing - in proportions we will determine. Objectives are (1) a template for operational forecasting of the fluxes of GHGs into and out of the N. Atlantic, to be implemented as part of ICOS and in combination with ECMWF (2) an understanding of that sink that can be used to improve projections of how the ocean CO2 sink will change in the future, and (3) a quantitative understanding of how and why Atlantic Ocean uptake of anthropogenic CO2 has changed as a result of climate change over the last 100 years.

Planned Impact

WHO WILL BENEFIT: Our project aims to quantify the N. Atlantic sources and sinks of greenhouse gases, and understand how and why they vary. This information is important for monitoring UK and European greenhouse gas emissions, since an independent verification method (now being used at UK, European and global levels) is to measure atmospheric concentrations and fit them to overall regional emissions -- which for accuracy, ideally requires knowledge of the region's ocean sources and sinks, especially if these are variable. Public bodies and agencies who have responsibility for monitoring or regulating the UK's greenhouse gas emissions including DECC and DEFRA therefore will benefit. There is an international effort to observe and understand the regional budgets of greenhouse gases, with the European Projects such as the Integrated Carbon Observing System (ICOS) now being set up across Europe, and the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) developing an operational system for such fluxes, and these bodies also will be beneficiaries. Reducing our uncertainty of how oceanic greenhouse gas sources and sinks, particularly for CO2, addresses a key unknown in predicting the course of anthropogenic climate change, and for this reason public at large also have an important stake in this research.

HOW WILL THEY BENEFIT: Our observations will be made available in a timely fashion to internationally recognised data processing centres from where they will be freely downloadable. The knowledge that we generate will also be directly communicated to stakeholders: for example we will put in place pathways to communicate our results by regular visits with DECC, ECMWF, via a website, a conference for stakeholders and public exhibition towards the end of the project. The relevant government departments will be able to use our results to decrease the uncertainty on estimates of emissions of UK greenhouse gases, both using the information given to them in these briefings, and via the improvement in detailed regional observations that we will deliver. Improved knowledge of how and why the ocean sources and sinks of greenhouse gases change will benefit the public at large by increasing our understanding of the long-term impacts of human emissions on the "Earth System" (including the global carbon cycle as well as the physical climate). This knowledge will feed in to future policy at national and international level that aims to set levels of future emissions.

Publications

10 25 50

 
Description High quality carbonate chemistry data has been produced on a N Atlantic research cruise. This will feed into the UK Greenhouse gas programme
Exploitation Route The data will be used to assess the uptake by the N Atlantic of CO2
Sectors Energy,Environment

 
Description Our main contribution is to undertake carbonate chemistry sampling and analysis on a cruise transect. We have successfully completed this task. Preparing the data for publication forms the next step.
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Energy,Environment
Impact Types Policy & public services