1Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences Program, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, USA
2Earth and Biosphere Institute and School of Geography, Leeds University, Leeds, UK
3Environmental Physics, Institute of Biogeochemistry and Pollutant Dynamics, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
4NOAA Earth System Research Lab, Global Monitoring Division, Boulder, CO, USA
5Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Sciences, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, USA
*now at: the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, Wellington, New Zealand
Abstract. We show here a new estimate of the variability and long-term trends in the net land carbon sink from 1960 onwards calculated from the difference between fossil fuel emissions, the observed atmospheric growth rate, and the ocean uptake obtained by recent ocean model simulations forced with reanalysis wind stress and heat and water fluxes. The net land carbon sink appears to have increased by −0.88 (−0.77 to −1.04) Pg C yr−1 after ~1988/1989 from a relatively constant mean of −0.27 Pg C yr−1 before then to −1.15 Pg C yr−1 thereafter (the sign convention is negative out of the atmosphere). This result is significant at the 1% critical level. The increase in net land uptake is partially compensated by a reduction in the expected oceanic uptake, which we estimate from model simulations as about 0.35 (0.26 to 0.49) Pg C yr−1. This implies that the atmospheric growth rate must have decreased by about −0.53 (−0.51 to −0.55) Pg C yr−1 (equivalent to −0.25 ppm yr−1) below what would have been projected if the ocean uptake had continued to grow at the rate expected from a constant climate model and if the net land uptake had continued at its pre-1988/1989 level. A regional synthesis and assessment of the land carbon sources and sinks over the post 1988/1989 period reveals broad agreement that the northern hemisphere land is a major sink of atmospheric CO2, but there remain major discrepancies with regard to the sign and magnitude of the net flux to and from tropical land.