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Climate of the Past An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/cp-2019-107
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/cp-2019-107
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 02 Sep 2019

Submitted as: research article | 02 Sep 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Climate of the Past (CP).

The response to pulse-like perturbations in atmospheric carbon and carbon isotopes

Aurich Jeltsch-Thömmes and Fortunat Joos Aurich Jeltsch-Thömmes and Fortunat Joos
  • Climate and Environmental Physics, Physics Institute and Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland

Abstract. Measurements of carbon isotope variations in climate archives and isotope-enabled climate modelling foster the understanding of the carbon cycle. Perturbations in atmospheric CO2, and in its isotopic ratios (δ13C, ∆14C) are removed on different time scales and by partly different processes. We investigate these differences on timescales of up to 100,000 years in idealized pulse release experiments with the Bern3D-LPX Earth system model of intermediate complexity and by analytical solutions from a box model. Isotopic perturbations are initially removed much faster from the atmosphere than perturbations in CO2 as explained by aquatic carbonate chemistry. On longer time scales, the CO2 perturbation is removed by carbonate compensation and silicate rock weathering. In contrast, the δ13C perturbation is removed by the relentless flux of organic and calcium carbonate particles buried in sediments. The associated removal rate is significantly modified by spatial δ13C gradients within the ocean influencing the isotopic perturbation of the burial flux. Space-time variations in ocean δ13C perturbations are captured by three Principal Components and Empirical Orthogonal Functions. Analytical impulse response functions for atmospheric CO2 and δ13CO2 are provided. Our results show that changes in terrestrial carbon storage are unlikely the sole cause for the abrupt, centennial CO2 and δ13C variations recorded in ice during Heinrich Stadials HS1 and HS4 of the last glacial period. Ocean processes likely played a significant role. The δ113 offset between the penultimate and last glacial maximum reconstructed for the ocean and atmosphere is most likely caused by imbalances between weathering, volcanism and burial fluxes.

Aurich Jeltsch-Thömmes and Fortunat Joos
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Aurich Jeltsch-Thömmes and Fortunat Joos
Aurich Jeltsch-Thömmes and Fortunat Joos
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