Effect of sampling bias on global estimates of ocean carbon export Stephanie Henson

Authors: Stephanie Henson, Kelsey Bisson, Matthew L Hammond, Adrian Martin, Colleen Mouw, and Andrew Yool
Journal: Environmental Research Letters, Volume 19, Number 2
DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/ad1e7f
Citation: Stephanie Henson et al 2024 Environ. Res. Lett. 19 024009

Abstract: Shipboard sampling of ocean biogeochemical properties is necessarily limited by logistical and practical constraints. As a result, the majority of observations are obtained for the spring/summer period and in regions relatively accessible from a major port. This limitation may bias the conceptual understanding we have of the spatial and seasonal variability in important components of the Earth system. Here we examine the influence of sampling bias on global estimates of carbon export flux by sub-sampling a biogeochemical model to simulate real, realistic and random sampling. We find that both the sparseness and the ‘clumpy’ character of shipboard flux observations generate errors in estimates of globally extrapolated export flux of up to ∼ ± 20%. The use of autonomous technologies, such as the Biogeochemical-Argo network, will reduce the uncertainty in global flux estimates to ∼ ± 3% by both increasing the sample size and reducing clumpiness in the spatial distribution of observations. Nevertheless, determining the climate change-driven trend in global export flux may be hampered due to the uncertainty introduced by interannual variability in sampling patterns.