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Geoscientific Model Development An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Development and technical paper 16 Aug 2018

Development and technical paper | 16 Aug 2018

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Geoscientific Model Development (GMD).

CO2 drawdown due to particle ballasting and iron addition by glacial aeolian dust: an estimate based on the ocean carbon cycle model MPIOM/HAMOCC version 1.6.2p3

Malte Heinemann, Joachim Segschneider, and Birgit Schneider Malte Heinemann et al.
  • Kiel University, Institute of Geosciences, Ludewig-Meyn-Strasse 10, 24118 Kiel, Germany

Abstract. Despite intense efforts, the mechanisms that drive glacial–interglacial changes in atmospheric pCO2 are not fully understood. Here, we aim at quantifying the potential contribution of aeolian dust deposition changes to the atmospheric pCO2 drawdown during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM). To this end, we use the ocean circulation and carbon cycle model MPIOM/HAMOCC, including a new parameterisation of particle ballasting that accounts for the acceleration of sinking organic soft tissue in the ocean by higher density biogenic calcite and opal particles, as well as mineral dust. Sensitivity experiments with reconstructed LGM dust deposition rates indicate that the acceleration of detritus by mineral dust likely played a small role for atmospheric pCO2 variations during glacial–interglacial cycles – on the order of 5 ppmv, compared to the reconstructed ∼80 ppmv-rise of atmospheric pCO2 during the last deglaciation. The additional effect of the LGM dust deposition, namely the enhanced fertilisation by the iron that is associated with the glacial dust, played a more important role – leading to a pCO2-drawdown by more than 8 ppmv in our LGM sensitivity experiments despite an underestimated iron-limitation in the used model setup.

Malte Heinemann et al.
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Status: final response (author comments only)
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Malte Heinemann et al.
Malte Heinemann et al.
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Short summary
Ocean CO2 uptake played a crucial role for the global cooling during ice ages. Dust formation, e.g. by ice scraping over bedrock, potentially contributed to this CO2 uptake, because 1) the iron in the dust is a fertilizer, and 2) the heavy dust particles can accelerate sinking organic matter (ballasting hypothesis).

This study tests the glacial dust ballasting hypothesis for the first time, using an ocean model. It turns out, however, that the ballasting effect probably played a minor role.

Ocean CO2 uptake played a crucial role for the global cooling during ice ages. Dust formation,...