A comprehensive estimate for loss of atmospheric carbon tetrachloride (CCl4) to the ocean Institutional Repository Document uri icon


  • Abstract. Abstract. Extensive undersaturations of carbon tetrachloride (CCl4) in Pacific, Atlantic, and Southern Ocean surface waters indicate that atmospheric CCl4 is consumed in large amounts by the ocean. Observations made on 16 research cruises between 1987 and 2010, ranging in latitude from 60 N to 77 S, show that negative saturations extend over most of the surface ocean. Corrected for physical effects associated with radiative heat flux, mixing, and air injection, these anomalies were commonly of the order of 5 % to 10 %, with no clear relationship with temperature, productivity, or other gross surface water characteristics other than being more negative in association with upwelling. The atmospheric flux required to sustain these undersaturations is 11 (714) Gg y1, a loss rate implying a partial atmospheric lifetime with respect to the oceanic loss of 209 (157313) y and that ~ 16 (1021) % of atmospheric CCl4 is lost to the ocean. Although CCl4 hydrolyses in seawater, published hydrolysis rates for this gas are too slow to support such large undersaturations, given our current understanding of airsea gas exchange rates. The even larger undersaturations in intermediate depth waters associated with reduced oxygen levels, observed in this study and by other investigators, strongly suggest that CCl4 is ubiquitously consumed at mid-depth, presumably by microbiota. Although this subsurface sink creates a gradient that drives a downward flux of CCl4, the gradient alone is not sufficient to explain the observed surface undersaturations. Since known chemical losses are likewise insufficient to sustain the observed undersaturations, this suggests a possible biological sink for CCl4 also in surface or near-surface waters of the ocean.

altmetric score

  • 4.85

author list (cited authors)

  • Butler, J. H., Yvon-Lewis, S. A., Lobert, J. M., King, D. B., Montzka, S. A., Bullister, J. L., ... Liu, Y.

citation count

  • 0

complete list of authors

  • Butler, JH||Yvon-Lewis, SA||Lobert, JM||King, DB||Montzka, SA||Bullister, JL||Koropalov, V||Elkins, JW||Hall, BD||Hu, L||Liu, Y

Book Title

  • EGUsphere

publication date

  • April 2016