A missing link in the carbon cycle: phytoplankton light absorption
Abstract. Marine biota and biogeophysical mechanisms, such as phytoplankton light absorption, have attracted increasing attention in recent climate studies. Under global warming, the impact of phytoplankton on the climate system is expected to change. Previous studies analyzed the impact of phytoplankton light absorption under prescribed future atmospheric CO2 concentrations. However, the role of this biogeophysical mechanism under freely-evolving atmospheric CO2 concentration and future CO2 emissions remain unknown. To shed light on this research gap, we perform simulations with the EcoGEnIE Earth system model and prescribe CO2 emissions following the four Representative Concentration Pathways (RCP) scenarios. Under all the RCP scenario, our results indicate that phytopankton light absorption increases the surface chlorophyll biomass, the sea surface temperature, the atmospheric CO2 concentrations and the atmospheric temperature. Under the RCP2.6, RCP4.5 and RCP6.0 scenarios, the magnitude of changes due to phytoplankton light absorption are similar. However, under the RCP8.5 scenario, the changes in the climate system are less pronounced due to the temperature limitation of phytoplankton growth, highlighting the reduced effect of phytoplankton light absorption under strong warming. Additionally, this work evidences the major role of phytoplankton light absorption on the climate system, suggesting a highly uncertain feedbacks on the carbon cycle with uncertainties that are in the range of those known from the land biota.
Model code and software
Source code https://zenodo.org/record/5676165
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