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The ephemeral and elusive ocean carbon response to COVID-related emissions reductions
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  • Nicole Suzanne Lovenduski,
  • Neil Swart,
  • Adrienne J. Sutton,
  • John Fyfe,
  • Galen McKinley,
  • Christopher L. Sabine,
  • Nancy Louise Williams
Nicole Suzanne Lovenduski
University of Colorado Boulder

Corresponding Author:nicole.lovenduski@colorado.edu

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Neil Swart
Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling & Analysis
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Adrienne J. Sutton
NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory
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John Fyfe
Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis
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Galen McKinley
Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University
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Christopher L. Sabine
University of Hawaii Manoa
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Nancy Louise Williams
University of South Florida
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The decline in global emissions of carbon dioxide due to the COVID-19 pandemic provides a unique opportunity to investigate the sensitivity of the global carbon cycle and climate system to emissions reductions. Recent efforts to study the response to these emissions declines has not addressed their impact on the ocean, yet ocean carbon absorption is particularly susceptible to changing atmospheric carbon concentrations. Here, we use ensembles of simulations conducted with an Earth system model to explore the potential detection of COVID-related emissions reductions in the partial pressure difference in carbon dioxide between the surface ocean and overlying atmosphere (ΔpCO2), a quantity that is regularly measured. We find a unique fingerprint in global-scale ΔpCO2 that is attributable to COVID and potentially detectable in observations, but only with much larger emissions reductions than those that have been observed to date.