Contemporary oceanic radiocarbon response to ocean circulation changes

Pookkandy, Byju; Graven, Heather; Martin, Adrian ORCID: 2023 Contemporary oceanic radiocarbon response to ocean circulation changes. Climate Dynamics.

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Radiocarbon (14C) is a valuable tracer of ocean circulation, owing to its natural decay over thousands of years and to its perturbation by nuclear weapons testing in the 1950s and 1960s. Previous studies have used 14C to evaluate models or to investigate past climate change. However, the relationship between ocean 14C and ocean circulation changes over the past few decades has not been explored. Here we use an Ocean-Sea-ice model (NEMO) forced with transient or fixed atmospheric reanalysis (JRA-55-do) and atmospheric 14C and CO2 boundary conditions to investigate the effect of ocean circulation trends and variability on 14C. We find that 14C/C (∆14C) variability is generally anti-correlated with potential density variability. The areas where the largest variability occurs varies by depth: in upwelling regions at the surface, at the edges of the subtropical gyres at 300 m depth, and in Antarctic Intermediate Water and North Atlantic Deep Water at 1000 m depth. We find that trends in the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation may influence trends in ∆14C in the North Atlantic. In the high-variability regions the simulated variations are larger than typical ocean ∆14C measurement uncertainty of 2–5‰ suggesting that ∆14C data could provide a useful tracer of circulation changes.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
ISSN: 0930-7575
Date made live: 22 Mar 2023 11:00 +0 (UTC)

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