High-Frequency CO2 System Variability Over the Winter-to-Spring Transition in a Coastal Plain Estuary

Elizabeth H. Shadwick, Marjorie A.M. Friedrichs, Raymond G. Najjar, Olivia A. De Meo, Jaclyn R. Friedman, Fei Da, William G. Reay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Understanding the vulnerability of estuarine ecosystems to anthropogenic impacts requires a quantitative assessment of the dynamic drivers of change to the carbonate (CO2) system. Here we present new high-frequency pH data from a moored sensor. These data are combined with discrete observations to create continuous time series of total dissolved inorganic carbon (TCO2), CO2 partial pressure (pCO2), and carbonate saturation state. We present two deployments over the winter-to-spring transition in the lower York River (where it meets the Chesapeake Bay mainstem) in 2016/2017 and 2017/2018. TCO2 budgets with daily resolution are constructed, and contributions from circulation, air-sea CO2 exchange, and biology are quantified. We find that TCO2 is most strongly influenced by circulation and biological processes; pCO2 and pH also respond strongly to changes in temperature. The system transitions from autotrophic to heterotrophic conditions multiple times during both deployments; the conventional view of a spring bloom and subsequent summer production followed by autumn and winter respiration may not apply to this region. Despite the dominance of respiration in winter and early spring, surface waters were undersaturated with respect to atmospheric CO2 for the majority of both deployments with mean fluxes ranging from −9 to −5 mmol C·m−2·day−1. Deployments a year apart indicate that the seasonal transition in the CO2 system differs significantly from one year to the next and highlights the necessity of sustained monitoring in dynamic nearshore environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7626-7642
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Oceanography
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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