Measurements of atmospheric O2/N2 ratios and CO2 concentrations can be combined into a tracer known as atmospheric potential oxygen (APO ≈ O2/N2 + CO2) that is conservative with respect to terrestrial biological activity. Consequently, APO reflects primarily ocean biogeochemistry and atmospheric circulation. Building on the work of Stephens et al. (1998), we present a set of APO observations for the years 1996-2003 with unprecedented spatial coverage. Combining data from the Princeton and Scripps air sampling programs, the data set includes new observations collected from ships in the low-latitude Pacific. The data show a smaller interhemispheric APO gradient than was observed in past studies, and different structure within the hemispheres. These differences appear to be due primarily to real changes in the APO field over time. The data also show a significant maximum in APO near the equator. Following the approach of Gruber et al. (2001), we compare these observations with predictions of APO generated from ocean O2 and CO2 flux fields and forward models of atmospheric transport. Our model predictions differ from those of earlier modeling studies, reflecting primarily the choice of atmospheric transport model (TM3 in this study). The model predictions show generally good agreement with the observations, matching the size of the interhemispheric gradient, the approximate amplitude and extent of the equatorial maximum, and the amplitude and phasing of the seasonal APO cycle at most stations. Room for improvement remains. The agreement in the interhemispheric gradient appears to be coincidental; over the last decade, the true APO gradient has evolved to a value that is consistent with our time-independent model. In addition, the equatorial maximum is somewhat more pronounced in the data than the model. This may be due to overly vigorous model transport, or insufficient spatial resolution in the air-sea fluxes used in our modeling effort. Finally, the seasonal cycles predicted by the model of atmospheric transport show evidence of an excessive seasonal rectifier in the Aleutian Islands and smaller problems elsewhere. Copyright 2006 by the American Geophysical Union.
Battle, Mark; Fletcher, Sara Mikaloff; Bender, Michael L.; Keeling, Ralph F.; Manning, Andrew C.; Gruber, Nicolas; Tans, Pieter P.; Hendricks, Melissa B.; Ho, David T.; Simonds, Caroline; Mika, Robert; and Paplawsky, Bill, "Atmospheric potential oxygen: New observations and their implications for some atmospheric and oceanic models" (2006). Physics Faculty Publications. 16.