EGU24-2611, updated on 08 Mar 2024
EGU General Assembly 2024
© Author(s) 2024. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Modelling the Impact of Surfactants on Anthropogenic CO2 Transfer between the Ocean and Atmosphere

Jianing Hu and Miguel Maqueda
Jianing Hu and Miguel Maqueda
  • Newcastle University, Faculty of Science, Agriculture & Eng, Natural and Environmental Sciences, United Kingdom of Great Britain – England, Scotland, Wales (

During the industrial revolution, anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions have rapidly increased, raising worries about their impact on global climate change. The oceans are an important sink of anthropogenic CO2, taking in about 30% of emissions. Despite the important role of surfactants in reducing gas exchanges between the atmosphere and the ocean, their effect on oceanic intake of CO2 has received limited attention in ocean models. In this exploratory work, we examine the impact of a parameterization of surfactants on CO2 fluxes between the ocean and the atmosphere using the NEMO (Nucleus for European Modelling of the Ocean) ocean engine in the ORCA2-LIM-PISCES configuration. Understanding and quantifying the potential effect of surfactants on the ocean's absorption of anthropogenic CO2 is the main goal of our modelling. Using documented atmospheric CO2 concentrations from 1750 till present, we carried out three simulations of the intake of anthropogenic CO2 by the ocean, one in which the presence of surfactants was ignored and two in which different formulations of the impact of surfactants on air-sea gas exchange were used. According to the simulations, the impact of the presence of surfactant on net, basin-scale anthropogenic CO2 fluxes into the ocean is rather small, on the order of just a few percent. However, in regions where, in the model, the intake of anthropogenic CO2 is largest, such as the Southern Ocean and the Kuroshio and Gulf Stream region, the reduction in these fluxes can attain between 10% and 40%. On seasonal timescales, the global effect of surfactants is to slightly enhance the amplitude of the annual cycle of fluxes by between 10% and 15%. The presence of surfactants leads to a reduction in the total mass of anthropogenic dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) in the global ocean by about 6% at the end of the integration. Regionally, the concentrations of anthropogenic DIC in the water column (mass of DIC per unit area) are up to 10% lower in the Southern Ocean and in the northern branch of the Kuroshio when surfactants are present.

How to cite: Hu, J. and Maqueda, M.: Modelling the Impact of Surfactants on Anthropogenic CO2 Transfer between the Ocean and Atmosphere, EGU General Assembly 2024, Vienna, Austria, 14–19 Apr 2024, EGU24-2611,, 2024.