Aicher Athena C.

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Athena C.

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  • Article
    Heat stored in the Earth system: where does the energy go?
    (Copernicus Publications, 2020-09-07) von Schuckmann, Karina ; Cheng, Lijing ; Palmer, Matthew D. ; Hansen, James ; Tassone, Caterina ; Aicher, Valentin ; Adusumilli, Susheel ; Beltrami, Hugo ; Boyer, Tim ; Cuesta-Valero, Francisco José ; Desbruyeres, Damien ; Domingues, Catia M. ; García-García, Almudena ; Gentine, Pierre ; Gilson, John ; Gorfer, Maximilian ; Haimberger, Leopold ; Ishii, Masayoshi ; Johnson, Gregory C. ; Killick, Rachel E. ; King, Brian A. ; Kirchengast, Gottfried ; Kolodziejczyk, Nicolas ; Lyman, John ; Marzeion, Ben ; Mayer, Michael ; Monier, Maeva ; Monselesan, Didier Paolo ; Purkey, Sarah G. ; Roemmich, Dean ; Schweiger, Axel ; Seneviratne, Sonia I. ; Shepherd, Andrew ; Slater, Donald A. ; Steiner, Andrea K. ; Straneo, Fiammetta ; Timmermans, Mary-Louise ; Wijffels, Susan E.
    Human-induced atmospheric composition changes cause a radiative imbalance at the top of the atmosphere which is driving global warming. This Earth energy imbalance (EEI) is the most critical number defining the prospects for continued global warming and climate change. Understanding the heat gain of the Earth system – and particularly how much and where the heat is distributed – is fundamental to understanding how this affects warming ocean, atmosphere and land; rising surface temperature; sea level; and loss of grounded and floating ice, which are fundamental concerns for society. This study is a Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) concerted international effort to update the Earth heat inventory and presents an updated assessment of ocean warming estimates as well as new and updated estimates of heat gain in the atmosphere, cryosphere and land over the period 1960–2018. The study obtains a consistent long-term Earth system heat gain over the period 1971–2018, with a total heat gain of 358±37 ZJ, which is equivalent to a global heating rate of 0.47±0.1 W m−2. Over the period 1971–2018 (2010–2018), the majority of heat gain is reported for the global ocean with 89 % (90 %), with 52 % for both periods in the upper 700 m depth, 28 % (30 %) for the 700–2000 m depth layer and 9 % (8 %) below 2000 m depth. Heat gain over land amounts to 6 % (5 %) over these periods, 4 % (3 %) is available for the melting of grounded and floating ice, and 1 % (2 %) is available for atmospheric warming. Our results also show that EEI is not only continuing, but also increasing: the EEI amounts to 0.87±0.12 W m−2 during 2010–2018. Stabilization of climate, the goal of the universally agreed United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1992 and the Paris Agreement in 2015, requires that EEI be reduced to approximately zero to achieve Earth's system quasi-equilibrium. The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere would need to be reduced from 410 to 353 ppm to increase heat radiation to space by 0.87 W m−2, bringing Earth back towards energy balance. This simple number, EEI, is the most fundamental metric that the scientific community and public must be aware of as the measure of how well the world is doing in the task of bringing climate change under control, and we call for an implementation of the EEI into the global stocktake based on best available science. Continued quantification and reduced uncertainties in the Earth heat inventory can be best achieved through the maintenance of the current global climate observing system, its extension into areas of gaps in the sampling, and the establishment of an international framework for concerted multidisciplinary research of the Earth heat inventory as presented in this study. This Earth heat inventory is published at the German Climate Computing Centre (DKRZ,, last access: 7 August 2020) under the DOI (von Schuckmann et al., 2020).
  • Article
    Methanol production by a broad phylogenetic array of marine phytoplankton
    (Public Library of Science, 2016-03-10) Mincer, Tracy J. ; Aicher, Athena C.
    Methanol is a major volatile organic compound on Earth and serves as an important carbon and energy substrate for abundant methylotrophic microbes. Previous geochemical surveys coupled with predictive models suggest that the marine contributions are exceedingly large, rivaling terrestrial sources. Although well studied in terrestrial ecosystems, methanol sources are poorly understood in the marine environment and warrant further investigation. To this end, we adapted a Purge and Trap Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry (P&T-GC/MS) method which allowed reliable measurements of methanol in seawater and marine phytoplankton cultures with a method detection limit of 120 nanomolar. All phytoplankton tested (cyanobacteria: Synechococcus spp. 8102 and 8103, Trichodesmium erythraeum, and Prochlorococcus marinus), and Eukarya (heterokont diatom: Phaeodactylum tricornutum, coccolithophore: Emiliania huxleyi, cryptophyte: Rhodomonas salina, and non-diatom heterokont: Nannochloropsis oculata) produced methanol, ranging from 0.8–13.7 micromolar in culture and methanol per total cellular carbon were measured in the ranges of 0.09–0.3%. Phytoplankton culture time-course measurements displayed a punctuated production pattern with maxima near early stationary phase. Stabile isotope labeled bicarbonate incorporation experiments confirmed that methanol was produced from phytoplankton biomass. Overall, our findings suggest that phytoplankton are a major source of methanol in the upper water column of the world’s oceans.