Air-sea CO2 fluxes in the California Current: Impacts of model resolution and coastal topography

Jerome Fiechter, Enrique N. Curchitser, Christopher A. Edwards, Fei Chai, Nicole L. Goebel, Francisco P. Chavez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


The present study uses a suite of coupled physical-biogeochemical model simulations at 1/3°, 1/10°, and 1/30° to assess the impact of horizontal resolution on air-sea CO2 fluxes in the California Current System (CCS), a relevant issue for downscaling between coarser resolution global climate models and higher resolution regional models. The results demonstrate that horizontal resolution is important to reproduce the sharp transition between near-shore outgassing and offshore absorption, as well as to resolve regions of enhanced near-shore outgassing in the lee of capes. The width of the outgassing region is overestimated when horizontal resolution is not eddy resolving (i.e., 1/3°) but becomes more dependent on shelf topography for eddy-resolving simulations (i.e., 1/10° and 1/30°). Enhanced near-shore outgassing is associated with a local increase in wind-driven upwelling in the lee of capes (i.e., expansion fans), meaning that sufficient horizontal resolution is needed both in the ocean circulation model and in the wind field forcing the model. From a global carbon budget perspective, the model indicates that biological production generates sufficient absorption within a few hundred kilometers of the coast to offset near-shore outgassing, which is consistent with the notion that midlatitude eastern boundary current upwelling systems act both as a sink and source for atmospheric CO2. Based on the 1/30° solution, the CCS between 35 and 45 N and out to 600 km offshore is a net carbon sink of approximately 6 TgC yr-1, with the 1/10° solution underestimating this value by less than 10% and the 1/3° solution by a factor of 3. Key Points Outgassing intensification linked to coastal topographic features Near-shore outgassing balanced by offshore absorption Carbon fluxes most sensitive to horizontal resolution for 35-40N

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)371-385
Number of pages15
JournalGlobal Biogeochemical Cycles
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Atmospheric Science


  • California Current
  • air-sea CO2 flux
  • carbon budget
  • coastal topography
  • model resolution
  • upwelling system


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