Air-Sea CO2 Flux and Carbon Budget Synthesis and Modeling in the Entire Gulf of Mexico

Sponsor:  National Aeronautics and Space Administration


USGS: Lisa Robbins (lead PI)
University of Delaware: Wei-Jun Cai
NOAA: Rik Wanninkhof, Leticia Barbero
Dalhousie University: Katja Fennel, Arnaud Laurent
North Carolina State University: Ruoying He, Haibo Zong
Universidad Autonoma de Baja California: Jose Martin Hernandez-Ayon
National Sun Yat-sen University: Wei-Jen Huang

Funding period

September 2014 -June 2017


The Gulf of Mexico is a large semi-enclosed subtropical/tropical sea shared almost equally by the U.S. and Mexico. Fed by more than 150 rivers, the drainage basin to the Gulf of Mexico is comprised of 33 major river systems, and extends over approximately 40% of the landmass. Among the many rivers, the Mississippi and Atchafalaya River System is largest, carrying about 65% of all freshwater to the Gulf. The estuarine system that rims the Gulf also plays a large role. River-dominated estuaries characterize the northern Gulf, large marine-dominated bays occur to the east, and to the south, coastal lagoons dominate. As such, the Gulf of Mexico is distinctive in terms of its river and estuarine-dominated shelves.
The importance of constraining CO2 fluxes in the Gulf is evident in the modulation and estimation of continental (atmospheric) CO2 concentrations. Large variability between marine air concentrations impacted by sea-air CO2 fluxes from the Gulf of Mexico and continental air masses can introduce significant errors into continental CO2 fluxes calculation by atmospheric inversion methods, particularly at regional scales. The drainage basins upstream of the Gulf have also experienced great climate and anthropogenic changes. These changes have influenced and will continue to influence carbon cycle in the Gulf of Mexico. Thus the current status of a poorly known air-sea CO2 flux represents a big knowledge gap that is critical to our understanding of the carbon cycle and budget in North America and how it may respond to climate and anthropogenic changes in the future. Our research goal is to improve our understanding of the sinks and sources of CO2 by delineating their distribution through synthesis and modeling efforts.


Work is in progress.

The web site Air-Sea Carbon Dioxide Flux in the Gulf of Mexico Project has been created to inform the public about the project and its products.


Shropshire, T., Y. Li, and R. He, Storm impact on sea surface temperature and chlorophyll a in the Gulf of Mexico and Sargasso Sea based on daily cloud-free satellite data reconstructions, Geophysical Research Letters, in press.

Zeng, X. and R. He (2016) Gulf Stream variability and a triggering mechanism of its large meander in the South Atlantic Bight, Journal of Geophysical Research – Oceans, 121, doi: 10.1002/2016JC012077. [PDF]