Air-sea CO2 fluxes and the continental shelf pump of carbon in the Chukchi Sea adjacent to the Arctic Ocean



[1] The Chukchi Sea, a shallow sea-ice covered coastal sea adjacent to the Arctic Ocean, exhibits an intense bloom of phytoplankton each year due to the exposure of nutrient-laden surface waters during the brief summertime retreat and melting of sea-ice. The impact of phytoplankton production and other factors on the seasonal dynamics of carbon and air-sea CO2 fluxes were investigated during two survey cruises (5 May–15 June 2002, and 17 July–26 August 2002), as part of the Western Arctic Shelf-Basins-Interactions (SBI) project. In springtime, most of the Chukchi Sea was sea-ice covered (>95%) and remnant winter water was present across the shelf. Surface layer seawater partial pressure of CO2 (pCO2) ranged from ∼200–320 μatm, indicative of undersaturation with respect to atmospheric pCO2, although sea-ice cover kept rates of air-to-sea CO2 flux generally low (<1 mmoles CO2 m2 d−1). By summertime, after sea-ice retreat, seawater pCO2 contents had decreased to very low values (<80–220 μatm) in response to high rates of localized primary and net community production (NCP) and biological uptake of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC). In the seasonally sea-ice free regions of the Chukchi Sea shelf, rates of air-to-sea CO2 fluxes, determined using the quadratic wind speed-transfer velocity relationships of Wanninkhof (1992), were high, ranging from ∼30–90 mmoles CO2 m−2 d−1. In regions of the Chukchi Sea slope (and western Beaufort Sea shelf and Arctic Ocean basin) where sea-ice cover remained high (>80%), air-to-sea CO2 fluxes remained generally low (<2 mmoles CO2 m−2 d−1). Seasonal (i.e., May to September) and annual net air-to-sea CO2 fluxes from the Chukchi Sea shelf were estimated at ∼27 ± 7 Tg C yr−1, and 38 ± 7 Tg C yr−1, respectively. The Chukchi Sea represents the largest oceanic CO2 sink in the marginal coastal seas adjacent to the Arctic Ocean. An active continental shelf pump of carbon, driven by the northward transport of nutrient-rich water of Pacific Ocean origin, high rates of primary and net community production during the sea-ice free period, and lateral export of organic carbon, maintains the Chukchi Sea shelf and slope as a perennial ocean CO2 sink.