Carbon Thermodynamics

An understanding of the thermodynamic relationships in the inorganic carbon system is important in evaluating the mechanisms controlling the distribution of CO2 in the oceans. The CO2 system in the oceans can be characterized by measuring at least two of the experimentally determined parameters

  1. pH
  2. Total Alkalinity (TALK)
  3. Total inorganic carbon dioxide (TCO2)
  4. Fugacity of CO2 (fCO2),

providing that constants are available for the other acid/base species in seawater (Millero, 1995). Reliable dissociation constants of carbonic acid are needed to calculate the components of the CO2 system from these measurements. The stoichiometric dissociation of carbonic acid in seawater are given by

K2 = [H+] [CO32-]/[HCO3-] (2)

where the brackets are used to denote the concentration in µmol/kg of seawater and the proton concentration is on the seawater scale, [H+]SWS = [H+]F {1 + [SO42-]T/KHSO4 + [F-]T /KHF} (KHSO4 and KHF are the dissociation constants for HSO4- and HF, respectively and the subscripts F and T represent the concentration of the free and total proton).

The stoichiometric dissociation constants pK1 and pK2 for carbonic acid have been determined by a number of scientists (Mehrbach et al., 1973; Hansson, 1973; Goyet and Poisson, 1989; Roy et al., 1993). The measurements by Mehrbach et al. (1973) were made on real seawater; while the other studies were made in artificial seawater. The more measurements of Goyet and Poisson (1989) and Roy et al. (1993) were in reasonable agreement and thus were combined by Millero (1995). At room temperatures the values of pK1 and pK2 determined in real seawater are 0.01 and 0.04 respectively, higher than the measurements made in artificial seawater. The examination of the internal consistency of laboratory (Lee et al., 1996; Lueker et al., 2000) and field (Wanninkhof et al., 1999; Lee et al; 2000) measurements of fCO2, TCO2 and TALK have indicated that the constants of Mehrbach et al. (1973) are more reliable than those of other scientists. The calculation of fCO2 from an input of TALK and TCO2 and calculations of other parameters from an input of fCO2 and TALK or TCO2 require reliable values of pK2 pK1 (or K1/K2). Thus, the field measurements suggest that the values pK2 - pK1 from Mehrbach et al. (1973) are more reliable than other laboratory studies. More recently (Millero et al., 2002) the high precision CO2 field measurements made as part of the WOCE and JGOFS programs in the Atlantic, Indian, Southern and Pacific oceans for surface waters (-1.6 to 38oC) yield values of pK2 and pK2 - pK1 in good agreement (within 0.005) with the results of Mehrbach et al. (1973). The calculated deep water measurements of pK1 and pK2 at 4 and 20oC are also in agreement (within 0.01) with all the constants determined in laboratory studies. These studies confirm the earlier internal consistency tests and indicate that the measured values of pK1 and pK2 of Mehrbach et al. (1973) on real seawater are more reliable than the values determined for artificial seawater. It also indicates that the large differences of pK2 - pK1 (0.05 at 20oC) in real and artificial seawater determined by different investigators are mainly due to differences in pK2. The values of pK2 - pK1 determined from the laboratory measurements of Lee et al. (1996) and Lueker et al. (2000) at low fCO2 agree with the field-derived data.

The values of pK2 - pK1 determined in these laboratory studies and the recent field measurements decrease as the fCO2 or TCO2 increases. This effect is largely related to changes in the pK2 as a function of fCO2 or TCO2. One can account for these effects using the empirical relationship:

pK2TCO2 = pK2 - 1.6 x 10-4 (TCO2 - 2050)

which is valid at TCO2 > 2050 µmol/kg. At present the cause of this effect is unknown. It may be related to interactions of CO32- with B(OH)3 or the presence of organic acids in seawater. The cause of the decrease in pK2 at high fCO2 is presently unknown. Further studies are needed to elucidate the chemical interactions responsible for this effect.

Recently Mojica Prieto and Millero (2002) have determined the values of (pK1 + pK2) for carbonic acid in seawater as a function of temperature (0 to 45oC) and salinity (5 to 42). Their measurements were in good agreement (0.005) with the results of Mehrbach et al. (1973). The pK1 in seawater were also determined in this study from at a few temperatures (15 to 45oC). The results are in better agreement (0.01) with the results of Mehrbach et al. between 20 to 30oC than other scientists. The measurement of Mojica Prieto and Millero (2002) and Mehrbach et al. have been combined to yield s = 0.0056:

pK1 = -43.6977 -0.0129037 S + 1.364 x 10-4 S2 + 2885.378/T + 7.045159 ln T

and s = 0.010:

pK2 = -452.0940 + 13.142162 S - 8.101 x 10-4 S2 + 21263.61/ T + 68.483143 ln T + (-581.4428 S + 0.259601 S2 ) / T -1.967035 S ln T

These studies indicate that the values of K1 (SW) > K1 (ASW) by ~0.01 and K2 (SW) < K2 (ASW) by ~0.04 near 25oC. Measurements of pK1 + pK2 and pK1 in artificial seawater with and without boric acid show the same trends, indicating that the effect is due to interactions of boric acid with HCO3- and CO32-. Further studies are needed to elucidate these interactions.


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Last modified: 2021-03-17T18:30:26Z