EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Arctic Ocean acidification over the 21st century co-driven by anthropogenic carbon increases and freshening in the CMIP6 model ensemble

Jens Terhaar1,2, Olivier Torres3, Timothée Bourgeois4, and Lester Kwiatkowski5
Jens Terhaar et al.
  • 1Climate and Environmental Physics, Physics Institute, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland (
  • 2Oeschger Center for Climate Change Research, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland
  • 3LMD/IPSL, Ecole Normale Supérieure/PSL Université, CNRS, Ecole Polytechnique, Sorbonne Université, Paris, France
  • 4NORCE Norwegian Research Centre and Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research, Bergen, Norway
  • 5LOCEAN/IPSL, Sorbonne Université, CNRS, IRD, MNHN, Paris, France

The uptake of anthropogenic carbon (Cant) by the ocean leads to ocean acidification, causing the reduction of pH and the calcium carbonate saturation states of aragonite (Ωarag) and calcite (Ωcalc). The Arctic Ocean is particularly vulnerable to ocean acidification due to its naturally low pH and saturation states and due to ongoing freshening and the concurrent reduction in alkalinity in this region. Here, we present projections of  Cant and ocean acidification in the Arctic Ocean over the 21st century across Earth System Models (ESMs) from the latest Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 6 (CMIP6). Compared to the previous model generation (CMIP5), the inter-model uncertainty of projected end-of-century Arctic Ocean Ωarag/calc is reduced by 44–64 %. The strong reduction in projection uncertainties of Ωarag/calc can be attributed to compensation between Cant uptake and alkalinity reduction in the latest models. Specifically, ESMs with a large increase in Arctic Ocean Cant over the 21st century tend to simulate a relatively weak concurrent freshening and alkalinity reduction, while ESMs with a small increase in Cant simulate a relatively strong freshening and concurrent alkalinity reduction. Although both mechanisms contribute to Arctic Ocean acidification over the 21st century, the increase in Cant remains the dominant driver. Even under the low-emissions shared socioeconomic pathway SSP1-2.6, basin-wide averaged aragonite undersaturation occurs before the end of the century. While under the high-emissions pathway SSP5-8.5, the Arctic Ocean mesopelagic is projected to even become undersaturated with respect to calcite. An emergent constraint, identified in CMIP5, which relates present-day maximum sea surface densities in the Arctic Ocean to the projected end-of-century Arctic Ocean Cant inventory, is found to generally hold in CMIP6. However, a coincident constraint on Arctic declines in Ωarag/calc is not apparent in the new generation of models. This is due to both the reduction in Ωarag/calc projection uncertainty and the weaker direct relationship between projected changes in Arctic Ocean Cant and Ωarag/calc. In CMIP6, models generally better simulate maximum sea surface densities in the Arctic Ocean and consequently the transport of Cant into the Arctic Ocean interior, with simulated historical increases in Cant in improved agreement with observational products.

How to cite: Terhaar, J., Torres, O., Bourgeois, T., and Kwiatkowski, L.: Arctic Ocean acidification over the 21st century co-driven by anthropogenic carbon increases and freshening in the CMIP6 model ensemble, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-7937,, 2021.


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