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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.

Rodenbeck, C, Le Quere C, Heimann M, Keeling RF.  2008.  Interannual variability in oceanic biogeochemical processes inferred by inversion of atmospheric O2/N2 and CO2 data. Tellus Series B-Chemical and Physical Meteorology. 60:685-705.   10.1111/j.1600-0889.2008.00375.x   AbstractWebsite

Atmospheric measurements of O(2)/N(2) and CO(2) at up to nine sites have been used to infer the interannual variations in oceanic O(2) exchange with an inverse method. The method distinguishes the regional contributions of three latitudinal bands, partly the individual contributions of the North Pacific and the North Atlantic also. The interannual variations of the inferred O(2) fluxes in the tropical band correlate significantly with the El Nino/Southern Oscillation. Tropical O(2) variations appear to be dominated by the ventilation of the O(2) minimum zone from variations in Pacific equatorial upwelling. The interannual variations of the northern and southern extratropical bands are of similar amplitude, though the attribution to mechanisms is less clear. The interannual variations estimated by the inverse method are larger than those estimated by the current generation of global ocean biogeochemistry models, especially in the North Atlantic, suggesting that the representation of biological processes plays a role. The comparison further suggests that O(2) variability is a more stringent test to validate models than CO(2) variability, because the processes driving O(2) variability combine in the same direction and amplify the underlying climatic signal.

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.

Stephens, BB, Keeling RF, Paplawsky WJ.  2003.  Shipboard measurements of atmospheric oxygen using a vacuum-ultraviolet absorption technique. Tellus Series B-Chemical and Physical Meteorology. 55:857-878.   10.1046/j.1435-6935.2003.00075.x   AbstractWebsite

We have developed an instrument for making continuous, field-based, part-per-million (ppm) level measurements of atmospheric oxygen concentration, and have implemented it on research cruises in the equatorial Pacific and Southern Oceans. The instrument detects changes in oxygen by the absorption of vacuum ultraviolet (VUV) radiation as it passes through a flowing gas stream, and has a precision comparable to existing laboratory techniques. Here we describe the VUV instrument and present atmospheric O-2 and CO2 data collected from the NOAA ship Ka' imimoana in the equatorial Pacific during April and May of 1998, and from the NSF ship Lawrence M. Gould in the Southern Ocean during October 1998. These data represent the first field-based measurements of atmospheric O-2, and significant additions to the O-2 datasets in these regions. Our boreal-springtime equatorial measurements reveal significant short-term variations in atmospheric O-2, resulting from variations in atmospheric mixing relative to the strong interhemispheric gradient. Our austral-springtime Southern Ocean observations confirm the low O-2 concentrations seen in flask samples from this region, allow the separate identification of oceanic and industrial influences on CO2, and provide evidence of a Southern Ocean source for CO2 at this time of year. These shipboard VUV observations do not provide any evidence to support coupled ocean-atmosphere model predictions of a large decreasing atmospheric O-2 gradient between equatorial and high-southern latitudes.

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).

Manning, AC, Keeling RF, Severinghaus JP.  1999.  Precise atmospheric oxygen measurements with a paramagnetic oxygen analyzer. Global Biogeochemical Cycles. 13:1107-1115.   10.1029/1999gb900054   AbstractWebsite

A methodology has been developed for making continuous, high-precision measurements of atmospheric oxygen concentrations by modifying a commercially available paramagnetic oxygen analyzer. Incorporating several design improvements, an effective precision of 0.2 ppm O-2 from repeated measurements over a 1-hour interval was achieved. This is sufficient to detect background changes in atmospheric O-2 to a level that constrains various aspects of the global carbon cycle. The analyzer was used to measure atmospheric O-2 in a semicontinuous fashion from air sampled from the end of Scripps Pier, La Jolla, California, and data from a 1-week period in August 1996 are shown. The data exhibit strongly anticorrelated changes in O-2 and CO2 caused by local or regional combustion of fossil fuels. During periods of steady background CO2 concentrations, however, we see additional variability in O-2 concentrations, clearly not due to local combustion and presumably due to oceanic sources or sinks of O-2. This variability suggests that in contrast to CO2, higher O-2 sampling rates, such as those provided by continuous measurement programs, may be necessary to define an atmospheric O-2 background and thus aid in validating and interpreting other O-2 data from flask sampling programs. Our results have also demonstrated that this paramagnetic analyzer and gas handling design is well suited for making continuous measurements of atmospheric O-2 and is suitable for placement at remote background air monitoring sites.

Keeling, RF, Manning AC, McEvoy EM, Shertz SR.  1998.  Methods for measuring changes in atmospheric O2 concentration and their application in southern hemisphere air. Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres. 103:3381-3397.   10.1029/97jd02537   AbstractWebsite

Methods are described for measuring changes in atmospheric O-2 concentration with emphasis on gas handling procedures. Cryogenically dried air samples are collected in 5 L glass flasks at ambient pressure and analyzed against reference gases derived from high-pressure aluminum tanks. Fractionation effects are minimized by avoiding pressure and flow variations throughout the gas-handling system. The overall external reproducibility is approximately +/-3.3 per meg, with systematic errors associated with collecting samples and with storing them for 1 year reduced to the level of 3 per meg or smaller. The demonstrated short-term reproducibly of air delivered from high-presure tanks is +/-1.5 per meg, with the composition changing by at most 5 per meg by surface desorption reactions as the tank is depleted to below 3500 kPa. A 9-year survey of a suite of six reference gases showed no systematic long-term trends in relative O-2 concentrations to the level of 5 per meg. Results are presented from samples collected at Cape Grim (41 degrees S), Macquarie Island (54 degrees S) and the South Pole Station (90 degrees S). From measurements spanning 1991-1995 it is found that the O-2 concentrations at the South Pole are on average 3.6+/-1.2 per meg higher than at Cape Grim. This result runs contrary to the expectation that the air at high southern latitudes should be depleted in O-2 as a result of O-2 uptake from the Southern Ocean and may require the existence of unknown O-2 sources near Antarctica or unexpected atmospheric transport patterns.

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/   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.

Severinghaus, JP, Keeling RF, Miller BR, Weiss RF, Deck B, Broecker WS.  1997.  Feasibility of using sand dunes as archives of old air. Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres. 102:16783-16792.   10.1029/97jd00525   AbstractWebsite

Large unaltered samples of the atmosphere covering the past century would complement the history of atmospheric gases obtained from bubbles in ice cores, enabling measurement of geochemically important species such as O-2, (CH4)-C-14, and (CO)-C-14. Sand dunes are a porous media with interstitial air in diffusive contact with the atmosphere, somewhat analogous to the unconsolidated layer of firn atop glaciers. Recent studies have demonstrated the value of firn as an archive of old air [Battle et al., 1996; Bender et al., 1994a]. Unlike firn, sand dunes are incompressible and so remain permeable to greater depths and may extend the firn record into the past century. To evaluate the feasibility of using sand dunes as archives of old air, we drilled 60 m deep test holes in the Algodones Dunes, Imperial Valley, California. The main objective was to see if the air in a sand dune is as old as predicted by a diffusion model, or if the dune is rapidly flushed by advective pumping during windstorms and barometric pressure changes. We dated the air with chlorofluorocarbons and krypton-85, anthropogenic tracers whose atmospheric concentrations are known and have been increasing rapidly in the past half century. These tracer data match the pure diffusion model well, showing that advection in this dune is negligible compared to diffusion as a transport mechanism and that the mean age of the air at 61 m depth is similar to 10 years. Dunes therefore do contain old air. However, dunes appear to suffer from two serious drawbacks as archives. Microbial metabolism is evident in elevated CO2 and N2O and depressed CH4 and O-2 concentrations in this dune, corrupting the signals of interest in this and probably most dunes. Second, isotopic analyses of N-2 and O-2 from the dune show that fractionation of the gases occurs due to diffusion of water vapor, complicating the interpretation of the O-2 signal beyond the point of viability for an air archive. Sand dunes may be useful for relatively inert gases with large atmospheric concentration changes such as chlorofluorocarbons.