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Impacts of ENSO on air-sea oxygen exchange: Observations and mechanisms

Impact:
The impacts of ENSO on air-sea O2 exchange are significant and complex, involving interactions between biogeochemical and physical processes. The atmospheric inversion and ocean model simulations presented here indicate that in an anomalous sense, the upper ocean loses O2 to the atmosphere during El Niño and gains O2 during La Niña. In CESM, these anomalies are driven by significant modulation of the O2 content in the upper equatorial Pacific by coupled ocean-atmosphere dynamics. During El Niño, the deepening of thermocline waters in the eastern equatorial Pacific and the weakening of upwelling lead to significant reductions in the ventilation of O2-deficient waters, driving anomalous O2 outgassing. El Niño is also associated with diminished biological productivity and net ocean heat loss, which drives anomalous uptake of O2. Conversely, during La Niña, intensified upwelling of shoaling thermocline waters strongly reinvigorates the ventilation of low-O2 waters while weakly enhancing the biological production and thermal outgassing of O2.

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