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Science Highlights

A new application of aerosol iron isotopes: tracing anthropogenic iron; an example of the North Atlantic Ocean

Conway and co-authors (2019, see reference below) present the first evidence that anthropogenic iron (Fe) from combustion sources is visible at the basin scale, using iron isotopic composition (δ56Fe) analysis of the soluble aerosol phases collected during GEOTRACES cruise GA03 in the North Atlantic Ocean. Off Sahara, soluble aerosol samples have near-crustal δ56Fe whereas those from near North America and Europe display δ56Fe values as light as −1.6‰. Coupled to aerosol deposition modeling these results reveal that soluble anthropogenic aerosol Fe flux to the global surface oceans is highly likely to be underestimated.

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Figure. Tracing anthropogenic iron with iron isotopes (adapted from Conway et al., 2019). Panels a and b show that aerosols collected from near the Sahara have low solubility, a near-crustal iron isotope composition (beige circle) and a near-crustal Pb/Al composition (beige diamond). In contrast, those collected from near North America or Western Europe have very soluble iron, very light iron isotopes and are very enriched in Pb, indicating pollution from humans. When sampling points are overlain on output from dust modelling, it can be seen that the light iron isotopes correspond to where fossil fuel iron is expected to be important, and the crustal iron isotopes correspond to where natural dust iron is most important (panel c).

Reference:

Conway, T. M., Hamilton, D. S., Shelley, R. U., Aguilar-Islas, A. M., Landing, W. M., Mahowald, N. M., & John, S. G. (2019). Tracing and constraining anthropogenic aerosol iron fluxes to the North Atlantic Ocean using iron isotopes. Nature Communications, 10(1), 2628. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-019-10457-w
 

Upwelled hydrothermal iron stimulates massive phytoplankton blooms in the Southern Ocean

Joint Science Highlight with US-Ocean Carbon & Biogeochemistry (US-OCB).

In a recent study, Ardyna et al (2019, see reference below) combined observations of profiling floats with historical trace element data and satellite altimetry and ocean color data from the Southern Ocean to reveal that dissolved iron (Fe) of hydrothermal origin can be upwelled to the surface. Furthermore, the activity of deep hydrothermal sources can influence upper ocean biogeochemical cycles of the Southern Ocean, and in particular stimulate the biological carbon pump.

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Figure: Southern Ocean phytoplankton blooms showing distribution, biomass (circle size) and type (color key). Adapted from Ardyna, et al., 2019. Click here to view the figure larger.

Reference:

Ardyna, M., Lacour, L., Sergi, S., d’Ovidio, F., Sallée, J.-B., Rembauville, M., Blain, S., Tagliabue, A., Schlitzer, R., Jeandel, C., Arrigo, K.R., Claustre, H. (2019). Hydrothermal vents trigger massive phytoplankton blooms in the Southern Ocean. Nature Communications, 10(1), 2451. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-019-09973-6

 

South Pacific particulate organic carbon fate challenges Martin’s Law

Joint Science Highlight with US-Ocean Carbon & Biogeochemistry (OCB).

Carbon storage in the ocean is sensitive to the depths at which particulate organic carbon (POC) is respired back to CO2 within the twilight zone (100-1000m). For decades, it has been an oceanographic priority to determine the depth scale of this regeneration process. To investigate this, GEOTRACES scientists are deploying new isotopic tools that provide a high-resolution snapshot of POC flux and regeneration across steep biogeochemical gradients in the South Pacific Ocean.

A recent paper in PNAS reported on particulate organic carbon (POC) fluxes throughout the water column (focusing on the upper 1000 m) along the GP16 GEOTRACES section between Peru and Tahiti (Figure 1A). POC fluxes (Figure 1B) were derived by normalizing concentrations of POC to 230Th following analysis of samples collected by in situ filtration. This work builds on a research theme initiated at the GEOTRACES-OCB synthesis workshop held at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in 2016.

The study results show that POC regeneration depth is shallower than anticipated, especially in warm stratified waters of the subtropical gyre. Regeneration depth—expressed in terms of the Martin-curve power-law exponent “b” (Figure 1C)—is shown to be greater than previous estimates (horizontal dashed lines), but similar to values obtained using neutrally buoyant sediment traps at the Hawaii Ocean Time-series Station Aloha. In contrast to the rapid regeneration of POC in warm stratified waters, POC regeneration within the oxygen deficient zone (ODZ) is below our detection limits. Models have shown that shallower regeneration of POC leads to less efficient carbon storage in the ocean, making the authors speculate that global warming, yielding expanded and more stratified gyres, may induce a reduction of the ocean's efficacy for carbon storage via the biological pump.

Pavia, et al. 2019

Figure: Site map and POC flux characteristics from GEOTRACES GP16 section. Plot A) shows the GP16 station locations as white circles, with nearby sediment trap deployments as black stars, with 2013 MODIS satellite-derived net primary productivity in the background. Plot B) shows POC fluxes from particulate 230Th-normalization from selected stations spanning the zonal extent of the GP16 section. Plot C) shows power law exponent b values for each GP16 station (blue), compared to estimates from bottom-moored sediment traps in the South Pacific (black and red dashed lines), a compilation of sediment traps in the North Pacific (green dashed line), and neutrally buoyant sediment traps in the subtropical North Pacific (yellow shaded band). GP16 regeneration length scales from 230Th-normalization agree most closely with the estimates from neutrally buoyant sediment traps.

Reference: 

Pavia, F. J., Anderson, R. F., Lam, P. J., Cael, B. B., Vivancos, S. M., Fleisher, M. Q., Lu, Y., Zhang, P., Cheng, H., Edwards, R. L. (2019). Shallow particulate organic carbon regeneration in the South Pacific Ocean. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 116(20), 9753–9758. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1901863116

 

The causes of the 90-ppm glacial atmospheric CO2 drawdown still strongly debated

Joint Science Highlight with US-Ocean Carbon & Biogeochemistry (US-OCB).

Using an observationally constrained earth system model, S. Khatiwala and co-workers (2019, see reference below) compare different processes that could lead to the 90-ppm glacial atmospheric CO2 drawdown, with an important improvement on the deep carbon storage quantification (i.e. Biological Carbon Pump efficiency). They demonstrate that circulation and sea ice changes had only a modest net effect on glacial ocean carbon storage and atmospheric CO2, whereas temperature and iron input effects were more important than previously thought due to their effects on disequilibrium carbon storage. 

19 Kathiwala

Figure: Illustration of the two main mechanisms identified by this study to explain lower atmospheric CO2 during glacial periods. Left: present-day conditions; right: conditions around 19,000 years ago during the Last Glacial Maximum. The obvious explanation for lower CO2 during glacial periods – cooler ocean temperatures (darker blue shade) making CO2 more soluble, much as a glass of sparkling wine will remain fizzier for longer when it is colder – has long been dismissed as not being a significant factor. However, previous calculations assumed that the ocean cooled uniformly and was saturated in dissolved CO2. The model, consistent with reconstructions of sea surface temperature, predicts more cooling at mid latitudes compared with polar regions and also accounts for undersaturation. This nearly doubles the effect of temperature change and accounts for almost half the 90 ppm glacial-interglacial atmospheric CO2 difference. Another quarter is explained in this model by increased growth of marine algae (green blobs and inset) in the waters off Antarctica. Algae absorb CO2 from the atmosphere during photosynthesis and “pump” it into the deep ocean when they die and sink. But their growth in the present-day ocean, especially the waters off Antarctica, is limited by the availability of iron, an essential micronutrient primarily supplied by wind-borne dust. In our model an increased supply of iron to the Southern Ocean, likely originating from Patagonia, Australia and New Zealand, enhances their growth and sucks CO2 out of the atmosphere. This “fertilization” effect was greatly underestimated by previous studies. The study also finds that, contrary to the current consensus, a large expansion of sea ice off Antarctica and reconfiguration of ocean circulation may have played only a minor role in glacial-interglacial CO2 changes. Credit: Illustration by Andrew Orkney, University of Oxford.

Reference:

Khatiwala, S., Schmittner, A., & Muglia, J. (2019). Air-sea disequilibrium enhances ocean carbon storage during glacial periods. Science Advances, 5(6), eaaw4981. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.aaw4981

About the decoupled fates of aluminium, manganese, cobalt and lead in the North Pacific Ocean

Did you know that each of these tracers could follow its own marine story, quite decoupled from the others?

This is what is shown and discussed by Zheng and co-workers (2019, see reference below) after having analysed about 500 samples for aluminium (Al), manganese (Mn), lead (Pb) and cobalt (Co) along three sections in the North Pacific Ocean. They demonstrate that the distribution of each element is uniquely related to ocean circulation; that the subsurface Pb maximum has been sustained in the North Pacific Ocean through the growth of anthropogenic sources in Asia and Russia, contrasting with the decrease observed in the Atlantic Ocean (please also read the science highlight from Bridgestock et al., 2016); that the labile fraction of particulate Al is larger than that of particulate lead; and finally that while the Pb enrichment factor confirms its predominant atmospheric origin, those of Mn and Co clearly attest that sources other than the aerosol deposition are more significant contributors to the concentrations of these two tracers.

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Figure: Sectional distributions of dissolved metals (dM) and potential density anomaly at depths of 0–1200 m along 160°W (section highlighted in red in the map). Dissolved aluminium (dAl) is high in Equatorial Under Current (EQ, 175 m depth) and North Equatorial Current (20°N, surface). Although dissolved manganese (dMn) and dissolved cobalt (dCo) have a concurrent source at the continental shelf of the Aleutian Islands, dCo is more widely distributed via North Pacific Intermediate Water (NPIW, ~600 m). Dissolved lead (dPb) is concentrated in Subtropical Mode Water and Central Mode Water above the NPIW. Adapted from Zheng et al., 2019. Click here to view the figure larger.

Reference:

Zheng, L., Minami, T., Konagaya, W., Chan, C.-Y., Tsujisaka, M., Takano, S., Norisuye, K., Sohrin, Y. (2019). Distinct basin-scale-distributions of aluminum, manganese, cobalt, and lead in the North Pacific Ocean. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 254, 102–121. DOI: http://doi.org/10.1016/J.GCA.2019.03.038

Bridgestock, L., van de Flierdt, T., Rehkämper, M., Paul, M., Middag, R., Milne, A., Lohan, M.C., Baker, A.R., Chance, R.,, Khondoker, R., Strekopytov, S., Humphreys-Williams, E., Achterberg, E.P., Rijkenberg, M.J.A., Gerringa, L. J.A., de Baar, H. J. W. (2016). Return of naturally sourced Pb to Atlantic surface waters. Nature Communications, 7, 12921. doi: http://doi.org/10.1038/ncomms12921

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