Carbonate chemistry dynamics and carbon dioxide fluxes across the atmosphere-ice-water interfaces in the Arctic Ocean: Pacific sector of the Arctic

Igor P. Semiletov, Irina I. Pipko, Irina Repina, Natalia E. Shakhova

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Citations (Scopus)


Climatic changes in the Northern Hemisphere have led to remarkable environmental changes in the Arctic Ocean, which is surrounded by permafrost. These changes include 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. These changes are commonly attributed to the greenhouse effect resulting from increased atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration and other non-CO2 radiatively active gases (methane, nitrous oxide). 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. However, the air-land-shelf interaction in the Arctic has a substantial impact on the composition of the overlying atmosphere; as the permafrost thaws, a significant amount of old terrestrial carbon becomes available for biogeochemical cycling and oxidation to CO2. The Arctic Ocean's role in determining regional CO2 balance has been ignored, because of its small size (only ∼ 4% of the world ocean area) and because its continuous sea-ice cover is considered to impede gaseous exchange with the atmosphere so efficiently that no global climate models include CO2 exchange over sea-ice. In this paper we show that: (1) the Arctic shelf seas (the Laptev and East-Siberian seas) may become a strong source of atmospheric CO2 because of oxidation of bio-available eroded terrestrial carbon and river transport; (2) the Chukchi Sea shelf exhibits the strong uptake of atmospheric CO2; (3) the 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 of CO2 transfer between air and sea during open water season may be different from transfer during freezing and thawing, or during winter when CO2 accumulates beneath Arctic sea-ice; (4) direct measurements beneath the sea ice gave two initial results. First, a drastic pCO2 decrease from 410 μatm to 288 μatm, which was recorded in February-March beneath the fast ice near Barrow using the SAMI-CO2 sensor, may reflect increased photosynthetic activity beneath sea-ice just after polar sunrise. Second, new measurements made in summer 2005 beneath the sea ice in the Central Basin show relatively high values of pCO2 ranging between 425 μatm and 475 μatm, values, which are larger than the mean atmospheric value in the Arctic in summertime. The sources of those high values are supposed to be: high rates of bacterial respiration, import of the Upper Halocline Water (UHW) from the Chukchi Sea (CS) where values of pCO2 range between 400 and 600 μatm, a contribution from the Lena river plume, or any combination of these sources.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)204-226
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Marine Systems
Issue number1-4
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Alaskan shelf
  • Arctic Ocean
  • Atmosphere-sea ice-water interaction
  • Carbon cycle
  • Carbon dioxide
  • Carbonate system
  • Climate change
  • Fluxes
  • Siberian shelf

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science

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