Publications

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2018
Nevison, C, Munro D, Lovenduski N, Cassar N, Keeling R, Krummel P, Tjiputra J.  2018.  Net community production in the Southern Ocean: Insights from comparing atmospheric potential oxygen to satellite ocean color algorithms and ocean models. Geophysical Research Letters. 45:10549-10559.   10.1029/2018gl079575   AbstractWebsite

The contribution of oceanic net community production (NCP) to the observed seasonal cycle in atmospheric potential oxygen (APO) is estimated at Cape Grim, Tasmania. The resulting APO(NCP) signal is compared to satellite and ocean model-based estimates of POC export and NCP across the Southern Ocean. The satellite products underestimate the amplitude of the observed APONCP seasonal cycle by more than a factor of 2. Ocean models suggest two reasons for this underestimate: (1) Current satellite products substantially underestimate the magnitude of NCP in early spring. (2) Seasonal O-2 outgassing is supported in large part by storage of carbon in DOC and living biomass. More DOC observations are needed to help evaluate this latter model prediction. Satellite products could be improved by developing seasonally dependent relationships between remote sensing chlorophyll data and in situ NCP, recognizing that the former is a measure of mass, the latter of flux. Plain Language Summary Phytoplankton in the surface ocean transform carbon dioxide into organic carbon while also producing oxygen. A fraction of the carbon is exported into the deep ocean, while the oxygen is emitted to the atmosphere. The carbon export rate influences how much carbon dioxide the ocean can absorb. The rate is commonly estimated using satellite-based phytoplankton color measured in the surface ocean, but such estimates involve many uncertain steps and assumptions. Small but detectible seasonal cycles in atmospheric oxygen have been used as an independent method for evaluating satellite-based estimates of organic carbon export. In this study, we evaluate eight satellite-derived carbon export estimates based on their ability to reproduce the observed seasonal cycle of atmospheric oxygen measured at a southeastern Australia site. All underpredict the seasonal oxygen cycle by at least a factor of 2, in part because they fail to capture the carbon and oxygen produced in early springtime and also because they focus on large particles of carbon that are heavy enough to sink while neglecting the dissolved fraction of organic carbon. Our study suggests that satellite estimates could be improved by a better understanding of seasonal variations in the relationship between phytoplankton productivity and carbon export.

2011
Keeling, RF, Manning AC, Dubey MK.  2011.  The atmospheric signature of carbon capture and storage. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society a-Mathematical Physical and Engineering Sciences. 369:2113-2132.   10.1098/rsta.2011.0016   AbstractWebsite

Compared with other industrial processes, carbon capture and storage (CCS) will have an unusual impact on atmospheric composition by reducing the CO(2) released from fossil-fuel combustion plants, but not reducing the associated O(2) loss. CO(2) that leaks into the air from below-ground CCS sites will also be unusual in lacking the O(2) deficit normally associated with typical land CO(2) sources, such as from combustion or ecosystem exchanges. CCS may also produce distinct isotopic changes in atmospheric CO(2). Using simple models and calculations, we estimate the impact of CCS or leakage on regional atmospheric composition. We also estimate the possible impact on global atmospheric composition, assuming that the technology is widely adopted. Because of its unique signature, CCS may be especially amenable to monitoring, both regionally and globally, using atmospheric observing systems. Measurements of the O(2)/N(2) ratio and the CO(2) concentration in the proximity of a CCS site may allow detection of point leaks of the order of 1000 ton CO(2) yr(-1) from a CCS reservoir up to 1km from the source. Measurements of O(2)/N(2) and CO(2) in background air from a global network may allow quantification of global and hemispheric capture rates from CCS to the order of +/- 0.4 PgCyr(-1).

2007
Keeling, RF, Manning AC, Paplawsky WJ, Cox AC.  2007.  On the long-term stability of reference gases for atmospheric O2/N2 and CO2 measurements. Tellus Series B-Chemical and Physical Meteorology. 59:3-14.   10.1111/j.1600-0889.2006.00228.x   AbstractWebsite

Measurements of changes in the atmospheric O-2/N-2 ratio have typically relied on compressed air derived from high-pressure tanks as the reference material against which atmospheric changes are assessed. The validity of this procedure is examined here in the context of the history of 18 O-2/N-2 reference tanks compared over a 12-yr time-frame. By considering differences in tank sizes, material types, and by performing additional tests, the long-term stability of the delivered gas is evaluated with respect to surface reactions, leakage, regulator effects, and thermal diffusion and gravimetric fractionation. Results are also reported for the stability of CO2 in these tanks. The results emphasize the importance of orienting tanks horizontally within a thermally insulated enclosure to reduce thermal and gravimetric fractionation of both O-2/N-2 and CO2 concentrations, and they emphasize the importance of avoiding elastomeric O-rings at the head-valve base. With the procedures documented here, the long-term drift in O-2/N-2 appears to be zero to within approximately +/- 0.4 per meg yr(-1), which projects to an uncertainty of +/- 0.16 Pg C yr(-1) (1 sigma) in O-2-based global carbon budgets.

2004
Keeling, RF, Blaine T, Paplawsky B, Katz L, Atwood C, Brockwell T.  2004.  Measurement of changes in atmospheric Ar/N2 ratio using a rapid-switching, single-capillary mass spectrometer system. Tellus Series B-Chemical and Physical Meteorology. 56:322-338.   10.1111/j.1600-0889.2004.00117.x   AbstractWebsite

The atmospheric Ar/N-2 ratio is expected to undergo very slight variations due to exchanges of Ar and N-2 across the air-sea interface, driven by ocean solubility changes. Observations of these variations may provide useful constraints on large-scale fluxes of heat across the air-sea interface. A mass spectrometer system is described that incorporates a magnet with a wide exit face, allowing a large mass spread, and incorporates an inlet with rapid (5 s) switching of sources gases through a single capillary, thus achieving high precision in the comparison of sample and reference gases. The system allows simultaneous measurement of Ar/N-2, O-2/N, and CO2/N-2 ratios. The system achieves a short-term precision in Ar/N-2 of 10 per meg for a 10 s integration, which can be averaged to achieve an internal precision of a few per meg in the comparison of reference gases. Results for Ar/N-2 are reported from flasks samples collected from nine stations in a north-to-south global network over about a 1 yr period. The imprecision on an individual flask, as estimated from replicate agreement, is 11 per meg. This imprecision is dominated by real variability between samples at the time of analysis. Seasonal cycles are marginally resolved at the extra-tropical stations with amplitudes of 5 to 15 per meg. Annual-mean values are constant between stations to within 5 per meg. The results are compared with a numerical simulation of the cycles and gradients in Ar/N-2 based on the TM2 tracer transport model in combination with air-sea Ar and N-2 fluxes derived from climatological air-sea heat fluxes. The possibility is suggested that Ar/N-2 ratios may be detectably enriched near the ground by gravimetric or thermal fractionation under conditions of strong surface inversions.

2003
Battle, M, Bender M, Hendricks MB, Ho DT, Mika R, McKinley G, Fan SM, Blaine T, Keeling RF.  2003.  Measurements and models of the atmospheric Ar/N2 ratio. Geophysical Research Letters. 30   10.1029/2003gl017411   AbstractWebsite

[1] The Ar/N-2 ratio of air measured at 6 globally distributed sites shows annual cycles with amplitudes of 12 to 37 parts in 10(6). Summertime maxima reflect the atmospheric Ar enrichment driven by seasonal warming and degassing of the oceans. Paired models of air-sea heat fluxes and atmospheric tracer transport predict seasonal cycles in the Ar/N-2 ratio that agree with observations, within uncertainties.

1999
Langenfelds, RL, Francey RJ, Steele LP, Battle M, Keeling RF, Budd WF.  1999.  Partitioning of the global fossil CO2 sink using a 19-year trend in atmospheric O2. Geophysical Research Letters. 26:1897-1900.   10.1029/1999gl900446   AbstractWebsite

O-2/N-2 is measured in the Cape Grim Air Archive (CGAA), a suite of tanks filled with background air at Cape Grim, Tasmania (40.7 degrees S, 144.8 degrees E) between April 1978 and January 1997. Derived trends are compared with published O-2/N-2 records and assessed against limits on interannual variability of net terrestrial exchanges imposed by trends of delta(13)C in CO2. Two old samples from 1978 and 1987 and eight from 1996/97 survive critical selection criteria and give a mean 19-year trend in delta(O-2/N-2) of -16.7 +/- 0.5 per meg y(-1), implying net storage of +2.3 +/- 0.7 GtC (10(15) g carbon) yr(-1) of fossil fuel CO2 in the oceans and +0.2 +/- 0.9 GtC yr(-1) in the terrestrial biosphere. The uptake terms are consistent for both O-2/N-2 and delta(13)C tracers if the mean C-13 isotopic disequilibrium flux, combining terrestrial and oceanic contributions, is 93 +/- 15 GtC parts per thousand yr(-1).

1998
Bender, ML, Battle M, Keeling RF.  1998.  The O2 balance of the atmosphere: A tool for studying the fate of fossil-fuel CO2. Annual Review of Energy and the Environment. 23:207-223.   10.1146/annurev.energy.23.1.207   AbstractWebsite

Carbon dioxide is a radiatively active gas whose atmospheric concentration increase is likely to affect Earth's climate. CO2 is added to the atmosphere by biomass burning and the combustion of fossil fuels. Some added CO2 remains in the atmosphere. However, substantial amounts are taken up by the oceans and land biosphere, attenuating the atmospheric increase. Atmospheric O-2 measurements provide one constraint for partitioning uptake rates between the ocean and the land biosphere. Here we review studies of atmospheric O-2 concentration variations and discuss their implications for CO2 uptake by the ocean and the land biosphere. We compare estimates of anthropogenic carbon fluxes from O-2 studies with estimates from other approaches and examine the contribution of natural ocean carbon fluxes to atmospheric O-2 variations.

1993
Keeling, RF, Najjar RP, Bender ML, Tans PP.  1993.  What atmospheric oxygen measurements can tell us about the global carbon cycle. Global Biogeochemical Cycles. 7:37-67.   10.1029/92gb02733   AbstractWebsite

This paper explores the role that measurements of changes in atmospheric oxygen, detected through changes in the O2/N2 ratio of air, can play in improving our understanding of the global carbon cycle. Simple conceptual models are presented in order to clarify the biological and physical controls on the exchanges of O2, CO2, N2, and Ar across the air-sea interface and in order to clarify the relationships between biologically mediated fluxes of oxygen across the air-sea interface and the cycles of organic carbon in the ocean. Predictions of large-scale seasonal variations and gradients in atmospheric oxygen are presented. A two-dimensional model is used to relate changes in the O2/N2 ratio of air to the sources of oxygen from terrestrial and marine ecosystems, the thermal ingassing and outgassing of seawater, and the burning of fossil fuel. The analysis indicates that measurements of seasonal variations in atmospheric oxygen can place new constraints on the large-scale marine biological productivity. Measurements of the north-south gradient and depletion rate of atmospheric oxygen can help determine the rates and geographical distribution of the net storage of carbon in terrestrial ecosystems.

Tans, PP, Berry JA, Keeling RF.  1993.  Oceanic 13C/12C observations: A new window on ocean CO2 uptake. Global Biogeochemical Cycles. 7:353-368.   10.1029/93gb00053   AbstractWebsite

Equations are developed describing the rate of change of carbon isotopic ratios in the atmosphere and oceans in terms of deltaC-13 quantities. The equations enable one to perform calculations directly with delta and epsilon quantities commonly reported in the literature. The main cause of the change occurring today is the combustion of fossil fuel carbon with lower deltaC-13 values. The course of this isotopic anomaly in atmosphere and oceans can provide new constraints on the carbon budgets of these reservoirs. Recently published deltaC-13 isotopic data of total inorganic carbon in the oceans [Quay et al., 1992] appear to lead to incompatible results with respect to the uptake of fossil fuel CO2 by the oceans if two different approaches Lo the data are taken. Consideration of the air-sea isotopic disequilibrium leads to an uptake estimate of only a few tenths of a gigaton C (Gt, for 10(15) g) per year, whereas the apparent change in the ocean deltaC-13 inventory leads to an estimate of more than 2 Gt C yr-1. Both results are very uncertain with presently available data. The isotopic ratio has the advantage that the signal-to-noise ratio for the measurement of the uptake of the isotopic signal by the oceans is better than for the uptake of total carbon. The drawback is that isotopic exchange with carbon reservoirs that are difficult to characterize introduces uncertainty into the isotopic budget. The accuracy requirements for the measurements are high, demanding careful standardization at all stages.