The air-water CO2 exchange of a coastal sea – a sensitivity study on factors that influence the absorption and outgassing of CO2 in the Baltic Sea


Erik Gustafsson, Anders Omstedt and Bo G. Gustafsson


Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans 120 (2015) Pages 1-16 doi:10.1002/2015JC010832


In this study, the BALTSEM model is used to estimate how air-water CO2 fluxes in the Baltic Sea respond to parameterizations of organic alkalinity (Aorg), gas transfer, and phytoplankton growth, and further to changes in river loads.

The forcing data include the most complete compilation of Baltic river loads for dissolved inorganic and organic carbon (DIC and DOC) and total alkalinity (TA). In addition, we apply the most recent estimates of internal TA generation in the system.

Our results clearly demonstrate how airwater CO2 fluxes of a coastal sea depend on river loads of carbon, TA, and nutrients as well the freshwater import itself. Long-term changes in DIC loads are shown to be compensated by corresponding changes in air-water CO2 exchange. By adding Aorg, a discrepancy in the carbonate system calculations was removed, and the simulated net CO2 absorption of the system decreased by 11%.

A new parameterization for cyanobacteria growth significantly improved the seasonal development of pCO2 in the central Baltic Sea, although the net effect on CO2 fluxes was below 5%. By applying either a linear, quadratic, or cubic wind speed dependence for gas transfer, the long-term net CO2 exchange was adjusted by less than 5%. There is no clear indication that any one of these parameterizations provides a more accurate estimate of CO2 fluxes than the other two.

Our findings are applicable in other coastal areas that are heavily influenced by river loads of TA, DIC, and DOC.


Published online 2015 August 3

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Updated: 2015-08-26
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