The Southern Ocean between 30°S and 55°S is a major sink of excess heat and anthropogenic carbon, but model projections of these sinks remain highly uncertain. Reducing such uncertainties is required to effectively guide the development of climate mitigation policies for meeting the ambitious climate targets of the Paris Agreement. Here, we show that the large spread in the projections of future excess heat uptake efficiency and cumulative anthropogenic carbon uptake in this region are strongly linked to the models’ contemporary stratification. This relationship is robust across two generations of Earth system models and is used to reduce the uncertainty of future estimates of the cumulative anthropogenic carbon uptake by up to 53% and the excess heat uptake efficiency by 28%. Our results highlight that, for this region, an improved representation of stratification in Earth system models is key to constrain future carbon budgets and climate change projections.
Stratification constrains future heat and carbon uptake in the Southern Ocean between 30°S and 55°S