EGU24-12480, updated on 09 Mar 2024
EGU General Assembly 2024
© Author(s) 2024. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Reassessing the pre-industrial air-sea carbon flux considering the ocean alkalinity budget

Alban Planchat1, Laurent Bopp1, and Lester Kwiatkowski2
Alban Planchat et al.
  • 1LMD-IPSL, CNRS, Ecole Normale Supérieure/PSL Res. Univ, Ecole Polytechnique, Sorbonne Université, Paris, 75005, France (
  • 2LOCEAN Laboratory, Sorbonne Université-CNRS-IRD-MNHN, Paris, 75005, France

Disparities in estimates of the ocean carbon sink, whether derived from global ocean biogeochemical models or from data products based on observations of surface ocean pCO2, question our ability to accurately assess ocean carbon uptake and its trend over recent decades. A potential factor contributing to the inconsistency between data products and model-based estimates is the pre-industrial air-sea carbon flux that is required to isolate the anthropogenic component from the total air-sea carbon flux estimated from observations. This pre-industrial air-sea carbon flux is thought to stem at the global scale from an imbalance between riverine carbon discharge to the ocean and sediment carbon burial.  Using a mass-balanced approach and comprehensive estimates of carbon inputs to the ocean by rivers and groundwater as well as carbon burial in marine sediments, Regnier et al. (2022) estimated that the pre-industrial ocean was outgassing 0.65 ± 0.30 petagrams of carbon per year. This updated estimation was used in the latest Global Carbon Budget (Friedlingstein et al., 2023) to derive an estimate of the ocean carbon sink over recent decades. In this study, we use a series of ocean biogeochemical pre-industrial simulations with varying assumptions related to carbon riverine input and burial to develop a theoretical framework to determine the ocean carbon outgassing and its spatial distribution. Building upon previous efforts, we integrate a carbon mass-balance approach with consideration of the ocean alkalinity budget. While conventionally assumed that the global alkalinity inventory was in equilibrium during the pre-industrial era — with riverine alkalinity discharge offset by CaCO3 burial — we demonstrate that an imbalance in the pre-industrial ocean alkalinity budget could significantly affect the carbon outgassing flux. This novel conceptual framework allows us to reestimate the pre-industrial carbon flux while considering the ocean alkalinity budget. Furthermore, it provides a simple method to reevaluate this flux in light of new assessments of carbon or alkalinity sources and sinks, while also covering their uncertainty ranges.

How to cite: Planchat, A., Bopp, L., and Kwiatkowski, L.: Reassessing the pre-industrial air-sea carbon flux considering the ocean alkalinity budget, EGU General Assembly 2024, Vienna, Austria, 14–19 Apr 2024, EGU24-12480,, 2024.