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Publication Date
13 April 2018

Reversal of Increasing Tropical Ocean Hypoxia Trends with Sustained Climate Warming



Dissolved oxygen (O2) is essential for the survival of marine animals. Climate change impacts on future oxygen distributions could modify species biogeography, trophic interactions, biodiversity and biogeochemistry. The Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5) models predict a decreasing trend in marine O2 over the 21st century. Here we show that this increasing hypoxia trend reverses in the tropics after 2100 in the Community Earth System Model forced by atmospheric CO2 from the Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) 8.5 and Extended Concentration Pathway (ECP 8.5). In tropical intermediate waters between 200m and 1000m, the model predicts a steady decline of O2 and an expansion of oxygen minimum zones (OMZs) during the 21st century. By 2150, however, the trend reverses with oxygen concentration increasing and OMZ volume shrinking through 2300. A novel, five-box model approach in conjunction with output from the full Earth System Model (ESM) is used to separate the contributions of biological and physical processes to the trends in tropical oxygen. The tropical O2 recovery is caused mainly by reductions in tropical biological export, coupled with a modest increase in ventilation after 2200. The time-evolving oxygen distribution impacts marine nitrogen cycling, with potentially important climate feedbacks.
“Reversal Of Increasing Tropical Ocean Hypoxia Trends With Sustained Climate Warming”. 2018. Global Biogeochemical Cycles 32. doi:10.1002/2017gb005788.
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