Methods to evaluate CaCO3 cycle modules in coupled global biogeochemical ocean models
Abstract. The marine CaCO3 cycle is an important component of the oceanic carbon system and directly affects the cycling of natural and the uptake of anthropogenic carbon. In numerical models of the marine carbon cycle, the CaCO3 cycle component is often evaluated against the observed distribution of alkalinity. Alkalinity varies in response to the formation and remineralization of CaCO3 and organic matter. However, it also has a large conservative component, which may strongly be affected by a deficient representation of ocean physics (circulation, evaporation, and precipitation) in models. Here we apply a global ocean biogeochemical model run into preindustrial steady state featuring a number of idealized tracers, explicitly capturing the model's CaCO3 dissolution, organic matter remineralization, and various preformed properties (alkalinity, oxygen, phosphate). We compare the suitability of a variety of measures related to the CaCO3 cycle, including alkalinity (TA), potential alkalinity and TA*, the latter being a measure of the time-integrated imprint of CaCO3 dissolution in the ocean. TA* can be diagnosed from any data set of TA, temperature, salinity, oxygen and phosphate. We demonstrate the sensitivity of total and potential alkalinity to the differences in model and ocean physics, which disqualifies them as accurate measures of biogeochemical processes. We show that an explicit treatment of preformed alkalinity (TA0) is necessary and possible. In our model simulations we implement explicit model tracers of TA0 and TA*. We find that the difference between modelled true TA* and diagnosed TA* was below 10% (25%) in 73% (81%) of the ocean's volume. In the Pacific (and Indian) Oceans the RMSE of A* is below 3 (4) mmol TA m−3, even when using a global rather than regional algorithms to estimate preformed alkalinity. Errors in the Atlantic Ocean are significantly larger and potential improvements of TA0 estimation are discussed. Applying the TA* approach to the output of three state-of-the-art ocean carbon cycle models, we demonstrate the advantage of explicitly taking preformed alkalinity into account for separating the effects of biogeochemical processes and circulation on the distribution of alkalinity. In particular, we suggest to use the TA* approach for CaCO3 cycle model evaluation.