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Keywords:

  • Arctic Ocean;
  • sea ice;
  • ocean productivity

[1] The rapid recent decline of Arctic Ocean sea ice area increases the flux of solar radiation available for primary production and the area of open water for air-sea gas exchange. We use a regional physical-biogeochemical model of the Arctic Ocean, forced by the National Centers for Environmental Prediction/National Center for Atmospheric Research atmospheric reanalysis, to evaluate the mean present-day CO2 sink and its temporal evolution. During the 1996–2007 period, the model suggests that the Arctic average sea surface temperature warmed by 0.04°C a−1, that sea ice area decreased by ∼0.1 × 106 km2 a−1, and that the biological drawdown of dissolved inorganic carbon increased. The simulated 1996–2007 time-mean Arctic Ocean CO2 sink is 58 ± 6 Tg C a−1. The increase in ice-free ocean area and consequent carbon drawdown during this period enhances the CO2 sink by ∼1.4 Tg C a−1, consistent with estimates based on extrapolations of sparse data. A regional analysis suggests that during the 1996–2007 period, the shelf regions of the Laptev, East Siberian, Chukchi, and Beaufort Seas experienced an increase in the efficiency of their biological pump due to decreased sea ice area, especially during the 2004–2007 period, consistent with independently published estimates of primary production. In contrast, the CO2 sink in the Barents Sea is reduced during the 2004–2007 period due to a dominant control by warming and decreasing solubility. Thus, the effect of decreasing sea ice area and increasing sea surface temperature partially cancel, though the former is dominant.