DOI: 10.1029/2023gb007798 ISSN:

Seasonal variability of the surface ocean carbon cycle: A synthesis

Keith B. Rodgers, Jörg Schwinger, Andrea J. Fassbender, Peter Landschützer, Ryohei Yamaguchi, Hartmut Frenzel, Karl Stein, Jens Daniel Müller, Nadine Goris, Sahil Sharma, Seth Bushinsky, Thi‐Tuyet‐Trang Chau, Marion Gehlen, M. Angeles Gallego, Lucas Gloege, Luke Gregor, Nicolas Gruber, Judith Hauck, Yosuke Iida, Masao Ishii, Lydia Keppler, Ji‐Eun Kim, Sarah Schlunegger, Jerry Tjiputra, Katsuya Toyama, Pradeebane Vaittinada Ayar, Antón Velo
  • Atmospheric Science
  • General Environmental Science
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Global and Planetary Change


The seasonal cycle is the dominant mode of variability in the air‐sea CO2 flux in most regions of the global ocean, yet discrepancies between different seasonality estimates are rather large. As part of the Regional Carbon Cycle Assessment and Processes phase 2 project (RECCAP2), we synthesize surface ocean pCO2 and air‐sea CO2 flux seasonality from models and observation‐based estimates, focusing on both a present‐day climatology and decadal changes between the 1980s and 2010s. Four main findings emerge: First, global ocean biogeochemistry models (GOBMs) and observation‐based estimates (pCO2 products) of surface pCO2 seasonality disagree in amplitude and phase, primarily due to discrepancies in the seasonal variability in surface DIC. Second, the seasonal cycle in pCO2 has increased in amplitude over the last three decades in both pCO2 products and GOBMs. Third, decadal increases in pCO2 seasonal cycle amplitudes in subtropical biomes for both pCO2 products and GOBMs are driven by increasing DIC concentrations stemming from the uptake of anthropogenic CO2 (Cant). In subpolar and Southern Ocean biomes, however, the seasonality change for GOBMs is dominated by Cant invasion, whereas for pCO2 products an indeterminate combination of Cant invasion and climate change modulates the changes. Fourth, biome‐aggregated decadal changes in the amplitude of pCO2 seasonal variability are largely detectable against both mapping uncertainty (reducible) and natural variability uncertainty (irreducible), but not at the gridpoint scale over much of the northern subpolar oceans and over the Southern Ocean, underscoring the importance of sustained high‐quality seasonally‐resolved measurements over these regions.

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