Context The fugacity of surface-seawater CO2 (fCO2sw) and the sea–air CO2 fluxes in the south-western tropical Atlantic (SWTA) were studied to increase the knowledge about the carbon cycle in this region. Aims This paper aims to describe the distribution of fCO2sw in SWTA. Methods The fCO2sw was measured from 2008 to 2020 by volunteer merchant ships with an onboard system that measures pCO2 while the vessels were underway. Key results Higher values occurred north of 8°S than in the region south of 8°S. The north is a strong source of CO2 for the atmosphere, with an annual mean value of 3.14 ± 0.52 mmol m−2 day−1. The south is a weaker source of CO2, with an annual average of 0.93 ± 0.90 mmol m−2 day−1. In the months of July and August, a weak sink of CO2 was observed, with a mean of −0.55 mmol m−2 day−1. Conclusions and implications The differences between these two regions are explained by the origin of the surface-water masses encountered along the ship track. The central branch of the South Equatorial Current (SEC) transports surface water, with a higher CO2 concentration and lower salinity, north of 8°S, whereas the surface waters between 8 and 14°S come from the southern branch of the SEC. The intertropical convergence zone is another physical process influencing the region north of 8°S.

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