Atmospheric CO2 balance: The role of Arctic sea ice

Igor Semiletov, Alexander Makshtas, Syun Ichi Akasofu, Edgar L. Andreas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

117 Citations (Scopus)


Climatic changes in the Northern Hemisphere have led to remarkable environmental changes in the Arctic Ocean, including significant shrinking of sea-ice cover in summer, increased time between sea-ice break-up and freeze-up, and Arctic surface water freshening and warming associated with melting sea-ice, thawing permafrost, and increased runoff [Carmack, 2000; Morison et al., 2000; Semiletov et al., 2000; Serreze et al., 2000]. These changes are commonly attributed to the greenhouse effect resulting from increased carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration. The greenhouse effect should be most pronounced in the Arctic where the largest air CO2 concentrations and winter-summer variations in the world for a clean background environment were detected [Conway et al., 1994; Climate Monitoring and Diagnostics Laboratory Data Archive,]. Some increased seasonal variation may be a consequence of increasing summer CO2 assimilation by plants in response to higher temperature and longer growing season [Keeling et al., 1996]. Here we show that sea-ice melt ponds and open brine channels form an important spring/summer air CO2 sink that also must be included in any Arctic regional CO2 budget; both the direction and amount f CO2 transfer between air and sea during the open water season may be different from transfer during freezing and thawing, or during winter when CO2 accumulates beneath Arctic sea-ice.

Original languageEnglish
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 16 Mar 2004
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)

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