Calcium carbonate budget in the Atlantic Ocean based on water column inorganic chemistry

S. N. Chung, K. Lee, R. A. Feely, C. L. Sabine, F. J. Millero, R. Wanninkhof, J. L. Bullister, R. M. Key, T. H. Peng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Recent independent lines of evidence suggest that the dissolution of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) particles is substantial in the upper ocean above the calcite 100% saturation horizon. This shallow-water dissolution of carbonate particles is in contrast with the current paradigm of the conservative nature of pelagic CaCO3 at shallow water depths. Here we use more than 20,000 sets of carbon measurements in conjunction with CFC and 14C data from the WOCE/JGOFS/OACES global CO2 survey to estimate in situ dissolution rates of CaCO3 in the Atlantic Ocean. A dissolution rate is estimated from changes in alkalinity as a parcel of water ages along an isopyenal surface. The in situ CaCO3 dissolution increases rapidly at the aragonite 100% saturation horizon. Estimated dissolution rates north of 40°N are generally higher than the rates to the south, which is partly attributable to the production of exported CaCO3 being higher in the North Atlantic than in the South Atlantic. As more CaCO3 particles move down the water column, more particles are available for in situ dissolution. The total water column CaCO3 dissolution rate in the Atlantic Ocean is determined on an annual basis by integrating estimated dissolution rates throughout the entire water column and correcting for alkalinity input of approximately 5.6 × 1012 mol C yr-1 from CaCO3-rich sediments. The resulting water column dissolution rate of CaCO3 for the Atlantic Ocean is approximately 11.1 × 1012 mol C yr-1. This corresponds to about 31% of a recent estimate (35.8 × 1012 mol C yr-1) of net CaCO3 production by Lee [2001] for the same area. Our calculation using a large amount of high-quality water column alkalinity data provides the first basin-scale estimate of the CaCO3 budget for the Atlantic Ocean.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4-1
Number of pages4
JournalGlobal Biogeochemical Cycles
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2003


  • Alkalinity
  • Calcium carbonate budget
  • Dissolution of calcium carbonate
  • Ocean carbon cycle
  • Saturation state of seawater

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Atmospheric Science


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