Document Type

Article

Date of Original Version

2018

Abstract

A decline in global ocean oxygen concentrations has been observed over the twentieth century and is predicted to continue under future climate change. We use a unique modeling framework to understand how the perturbed ocean circulation may influence the rate of ocean deoxygenation in response to a doubling of atmospheric CO2 and associated global warming. These simulations suggest that much of the oxygen decline under warming is due to changes in ocean mixing and O2 solubility. However, in our model, the large‐scale ocean circulation response to CO2 doubling slows the pace of future oxygen loss by 20%. Oxygen concentration changes are most sensitive to circulation perturbations in the Southern Ocean. A small stabilizing effect on oxygen arises from the reduction of export productivity and associated respiration in the ocean interior. A slowdown of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation increases the residence time of the deep Atlantic Ocean but does not cause a major oxygen decline at the time of CO2 doubling, because respiration is slow at these depths. The simulations show that the decrease in O2 solubility associated with ocean warming is greater than the realized decrease in preformed O2, particularly at high latitudes, where circulation changes reduce the proportion of undersaturated waters sinking into the ocean interior. Finally, in the tropical Pacific oxygen minimum zone, a predicted weakening of the Walker Circulation slows the regional upwelling of nutrients and the associated export productivity and respiration, preventing the intensification of hypoxia there.

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