Freshwater displacement effect on the Weddell Gyre carbon budget

Benjamin A. Taylor*, Graeme A. MacGilchrist, Matthew R. Mazloff, Lynne D. Talley

*Corresponding author for this work

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The Weddell Gyre mediates carbon exchange between the abyssal ocean and atmosphere, which is critical to global climate. This region also features large and highly variable freshwater fluxes due to seasonal sea ice, net precipitation, and glacial melt; however, the impact of these freshwater fluxes on the regional carbon cycle has not been fully appreciated. Using a novel budget analysis of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) mass in the Biogeochemical Southern Ocean State Estimate, we highlight two freshwater-driven transports. Where freshwater with minimal DIC enters the ocean, it displaces DIC-rich seawater outwards, driving a lateral transport of 75 ± 5 Tg DIC/year. Additionally, sea ice export requires a compensating import of seawater, which carries 48 ± 11 Tg DIC/year into the gyre. Though often overlooked, these freshwater displacement effects are of leading order in the Weddell Gyre carbon budget in the state estimate and in regrouped box-inversion estimates, with implications for evaluating basin-scale carbon transport.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2023GL103952
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - 26 Sept 2023


  • Carbon budget
  • Freshwater
  • Weddell
  • Oceanic carbon transport
  • Sea ice
  • Divergence


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