SOCAT, 65 years of observations of CO2 in the surface waters of the world’s oceans
The latest version of the international data-base SOCAT (Surface Ocean CO2 Atlas) has been released on June 20 2023. SOCAT version 2023 assembles more than 40 million of carbon dioxide sea surface observations in the global ocean, marginal seas and coastal zones. The laboratory Laboratoire d’océanographie et du climat : expérimentation et approches numériques (LOCEAN/IPSL/OSU Ecce Terra, SU/CNRS/MNHN/IRD) is involved in this project that was first discussed during an international workshop organized in Paris/UNESCO in 2007.
The ocean plays a crucial role in the regulation of climate change. It absorbs more than 90% of excess heat and presently a quarter of CO2 emitted by human activities (fossil fuels and land-used changed). Since 1750, the ocean captured about 185 PgC (Peta-gramme of Carbon) of a total of 700 PgC anthropogenic emissions (Friedlingstein et al, 2022). Without this ocean carbon sink, the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere would be around 512 ppm compared to 419.3 ppm as observed in January 2023. In the context of a changing climate from decade to decade, it is important to evaluate each year the global carbon budget for a better understanding of its recent evolution, the processes that control carbon exchanges between the reservoirs, reducing the uncertainties in the climate predictions and guiding the political decisions and adaptations at international level. For this, researchers compile the inventories of anthropogenic emissions and the atmospheric and oceanic observations needed to evaluate the air-sea CO2 exchange. The oceanic and terrestrial carbon sink are also evaluated from models (Friedlingstein et al. 2022). A direct impact of anthropogenic CO2 accumulating in the oceans leads to the process called “ocean acidification” (decrease of pH). This is now relatively well observed in all oceans as evaluated from SOCAT data but understanding of the impacts of ocean acidification on marine organisms (like phytoplankton or corals) needs to be improved.
To quantify the ocean carbon sink each year, it is important to maintain and integrate ocean CO2 observations from year to year in all ocean regions, including marginal seas and coastal zones where the variability of the oceanic biogeochemical properties (including CO2) is pronounced. This is the aim of the SOCAT project started in 2007 during an international workshop organized in Paris/UNESCO (Metzl et al, 2007), a data-base regularly updated since 2011 (Pfeil et al, 2013; Bakker et al, 2016). Since last year, SOCAT added 4 million of new quality controlled fCO2 observations from 333 cruises, VOS lines, moorings or drifting platforms (Figure 1). Notice that in 2022 there were few observations in the Indian and Southern Ocean. In the future, observations should be conducted in these regions in order to better evaluate ocean models and offer constraint for neural network approaches (Figure 2).
Since the first SOCAT version published in 2011 with 6.3 million data, SOCAT includes today 43 million sea surface fCO2 data in the global ocean and coastal zones for the period 1957-2022 (Bakker et al. 2023). Each data set available on-line is associated with quality control information (Quality Flag, Lauvset et al., 2019). SOCAT also offers gridded products (monthly scale) that could be used to validate ocean biogeochemical models and coupled climate/carbon models (CMIP6). An interactive tool (LAS Data viewer) enables to visualize the data and download them for specific region or period. The SOCAT data-base is also available in ODV format (Ocean Data View, https://odv.awi.de/).
The annual SOCAT public release contributes to UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 13 and 14 (#OceanAction20464) and to the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. SOCAT has been used in more than 400 publications and international reports (www.socat.info/publications.html), in particular:
- SOCAT is referenced in the IPCC reports.
- SOCAT informs the Global Carbon Budget (Figure 3, Friedlingstein et al, 2022, www.globalcarbonproject.org).
- SOCAT is used to quantify and understand the seasonal to decadal variability of the ocean carbon sink in the open ocean, coastal seas or marginal seas (e.g. Chau et al, 2022; DeVries, 2022; Gruber et al, 2023; Sarma et al, 2023; RECCAP-2 project, https://www.globalcarbonproject.org/reccap/)
- SOCAT is used to evaluate the ocean acidification (Figure 4; e.g., Jiang et al, 2019; Leseurre et al, 2022; Chau et al, 2023).
- SOCAT is used to evaluate sensor data from Bio-ARGO floats (e.g. Bushinsky et al, 2019).
- With the GLODAP database (glodap.info) for the ocean interior, SOCAT offers important complementary knowledge on anthropogenic CO2 inventories in the oceans (Tanhua et al, 2021; Gruber et al, 2023).
- SOCAT helps the design of new international projects (Wanninkhof et al, 2019 ; project SOCONET, aoml.noaa.gov/ocd/gcc/SOCONET/)
- SOCAT data will be part of the GOA-ON database (Global Ocean Acidification Observing Network, goa-on.org)
- SOCAT is now integrated in the European DTO plateform (Digital Twin of the Ocean) : https://www.eu4oceanobs.eu/towards-european-digital-ocean/; https://blue-cloud.org/data-infrastructures/socat
The LOCEAN/IPSL laboratory feeds regularly data in SOCAT (from observatories SO/OISO, PIRATA, SSS-CO2), contributes to the data quality control for the Tropical Atlantic, Indian and Southern Ocean regional SOCAT groups. The project is coordinated by Dorothee Bakker (East Anglia University, Norwich UK). It has been supported by international programs (SOLAS, IMBER, IOCCP), European, USA, Australian, Japan projects, and many national institutions, but the work of providing data and their quality control is mainly carried out by volunteer researchers and, in the future, ensuring the continuity of these efforts will require sustainable means (Lange et al, 2023).
Dorothee Bakker, (UEA/Norwich/UK):
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