Geophysical Research Letters

Impact of sea-level rise over the last deglacial transition on the strength of the continental shelf CO2 pump



[1] Although shelf seas account for only 7% of the oceanic surface area, recent observations demonstrate that they host significant ocean-atmosphere CO2 fluxes. A mechanism implicated in driving a significant CO2 sink in the temperate shelf seas is the Continental Shelf Pump. Here we present an analysis of the impact of sea-level rise, and the consequent flooding of continental shelves, on the growth of the continental shelf CO2 pump over the last deglacial transition. We combine reconstructions of shelf palaeogeography, bathymetry and tides, with contemporary shelf sea – atmosphere CO2 flux estimates, to demonstrate the potential of the expanding shelf seas to have impacted on the global carbon cycle, via the continental shelf CO2 pump, over the past 21,000 years and, by inference, earlier glacial-interglacial cycles.