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Wintertime process study of the North Brazil Current rings reveals the region as a larger sink for CO2 than expected

Abstract : The key processes driving the air-sea CO2 fluxes in the western tropical Atlantic (WTA) in winter are poorly known. WTA is a highly dynamic oceanic region, expected to have a dominant role in the variability in CO2 air-sea fluxes. In early 2020 (February), this region was the site of a large in situ survey and studied in wider context through satellite measurements. The North Brazil Current (NBC) flows northward along the coast of South America, retroflects close to 8 N and pinches off the world's largest eddies, the NBC rings. The rings are formed to the north of the Amazon River mouth when freshwater discharge is still significant in winter (a time period of relatively low run-off). We show that in February 2020, the region (5-16 N, 50-59 W) is a CO2 sink from the atmosphere to the ocean (−1.7 Tg C per month), a factor of 10 greater than previously estimated. The spatial distribution of CO2 fugacity is strongly influenced by eddies south of 12 N. During the campaign, a nutrient-rich freshwater plume from the Amazon River is entrained by a ring from the shelf up to 12 N leading to high phytoplankton concentration and significant carbon drawdown (∼20 % of the total sink). In trapping equatorial waters, NBC rings are a small source of CO2. The less variable North Atlantic subtropical water extends from 12 N northward and represents ∼60 % of the total sink due to the lower temperature associated with winter cooling and strong winds. Our results, in identifying the key processes influencing the air-sea CO2 flux in the WTA, highlight the role of eddy interactions with the Amazon River plume. It sheds light on how a lack of data impeded a correct assessment of the flux in the past, as well as on the necessity of taking into account features at meso- and small scales.
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Submitted on : Thursday, July 21, 2022 - 11:46:16 AM
Last modification on : Sunday, October 16, 2022 - 11:45:35 AM
Long-term archiving on: : Saturday, October 22, 2022 - 10:18:03 PM

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Léa Olivier, Jacqueline Boutin, Gilles Reverdin, Nathalie Lefèvre, Peter Landschützer, et al.. Wintertime process study of the North Brazil Current rings reveals the region as a larger sink for CO2 than expected. Biogeosciences, 2022, 19, pp.2969-2988. ⟨10.5194/bg-19-2969-2022⟩. ⟨insu-03726893⟩

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