Influence of the oceanic cool skin layer on global air-sea CO2 flux estimates

S. Woods, P. J. Minnett, C. L. Gentemann, D. Bogucki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The global oceans are a major sink for atmospheric CO2, but the magnitude of this sink is still under question since there are many uncertainties inherent in determining global CO2 fluxes across the air-sea interface. The sign and magnitude of the air-sea fluxes show significant regional and seasonal variation. The gas transfer variables necessary to determine air-sea CO2 fluxes are temperature dependent and studies of global CO2 fluxes commonly rely on measurements of the sub-surface oceanic mixed layer temperature, rather than the cooler skin temperature for these calculations. This surface skin temperature is, on average, about 0.2K cooler than that of the mixed layer, leading to underestimates of oceanic CO2 uptake when the mixed layer temperature is used for calculations. This study explores the impact, upon both the global annual mean, and as seasonal global distributions, of replacing a mixed layer temperature measurement with a skin temperature measurement to improve global estimates of air-sea CO2 exchange, making use of extensive satellite and in situ measurements. Resulting estimates show, contrary to previous studies, that the contribution of the cool skin is relatively minor on a global scale, suggesting that calculations can confidently continue to move forward in refining estimates and monitoring air-sea CO2 exchange from remotely sensed parameters, providing better resolution both in time and space in future studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-24
Number of pages10
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
StatePublished - Apr 5 2014


  • Air-sea CO exchange
  • Cool skin
  • Sea surface temperature
  • Weibull wind speed distribution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science
  • Geology
  • Computers in Earth Sciences


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