Ocean Biogeochemistry

Ocean carbon and biogeochemical cycles influence climate on a range of timescales. By modelling the underlying biology and chemistry of the oceans we can explore fundamental questions about the earth-system.

Approximately half of the carbon dioxide presently released by human activity stays in the atmosphere.  The remaining carbon is absorbed by sinks in the land and oceans.  It is critically important to know how the 'airborne fraction' of carbon dioxide has varied in the past, and may evolve as we move into the future. By better understanding the changing distribution of carbon between the oceans and atmosphere we can improve our capacity to predict future climate, and calculate whether different emissions scenarios might allow us to meet greenhouse gas targets.

Our marine biogeochemical research focuses on the chemical and biological processes involved in ocean carbon transport and ocean-atmosphere carbon exchange. We also look at the role played by other biologically mediated gases within the climate system. We develop and investigate a range of global models which simulate the physical and biological transport of carbon and nutrients around the ocean. Working closely with the terrestrial carbon cycle and atmospheric chemistry groups, we aim to capture all of the major carbon cycle processes and simulate the impact these processes have on climate.

Key Aims

  • To identify and improve our understanding of key marine carbon cycle processes.
  • To accurately represent the distribution, growth and vertical movement of plankton within the ocean.
  • To identify the impact of, and explore the mechanisms behind, marine biogeochemical feedbacks operating within the earth system.

Current Projects

  • Develop and evaluate the ocean biogeochemistry within the Earth System configuration of HadGEM2.
  • Analyse and interpret biogeochemical results from climate simulations undertaken for the IPCC's 5th Assessment Report.
  • Develop an improved model representation of marine calcification.
  • Investigate the role of fish carbonate production on surface ocean alkalinity and dissolved inorganic carbon concentrations in collaboration with Exeter University.
  • Quantifying the major uncertainties within the model representation of the carbon cycle, with the climate prediction group.
  • Assess the impact of changing marine dimethylsulphide (DMS) production on climate.

Last updated: 12 October 2011