An increasing CO2 sink in the Arctic Ocean due to sea-ice loss

Nicholas R. Bates, S. Bradley Moran, Dennis A. Hansell, Jeremy T. Mathis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

110 Scopus citations


The Arctic Ocean and adjacent continental shelf seas such as the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas are particularly sensitive to long-term change and low-frequency modes of atmosphere-ocean-sea-ice forcing. The cold, low salinity surface waters of the Canada Basin of the Arctic Ocean are undersaturated with respect to CO2 in the atmosphere and the region has the potential to take up atmospheric CO2, although presently suppressed by sea-ice cover. Undersaturated seawater CO2 conditions of the Arctic Ocean are maintained by export of water with low dissolved inorganic carbon content and modified by intense seasonal shelf primary production. Sea-ice extent and volume in the Arctic Ocean has decreased over the last few decades, and we estimate that the Arctic Ocean sink for CO2 has tripled over the last 3 decades (24 Tg yr-1 to 66 Tg yr-1) due to sea-ice retreat with future sea-ice melting enhancing air-to-sea CO2 flux by ∼28% per decade.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberL23609
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number23
StatePublished - Dec 16 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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