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Biogeosciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 09 Mar 2020

Submitted as: research article | 09 Mar 2020

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A revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal BG.

Effects of 238U variability and physical transport on water column 234Th downward fluxes in the coastal upwelling system off Peru

Ruifang Xie1, Frédéric A. C. Le Moigne2, Insa Rapp1, Jan Lüdke1, Beat Gasser3, Marcus Dengler1, Volker Liebetrau1, and Eric P. Achterberg1 Ruifang Xie et al.
  • 1GEOMAR Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research Kiel, Wischhofstrasse 1-3, 24148 Kiel, Germany
  • 2Mediterranean Institute of Oceanography (UM 110, MIO), CNRS, IRD, Aix Marseille Université, Marseille, France
  • 3IAEA Environment Laboratories, 4 Quai Antoine 1er, 98000 Monaco, Monaco

Abstract. The eastern boundary region of the southeast Pacific Ocean hosts one of the world's most dynamic and productive upwelling systems with an associated oxygen minimum zone (OMZ). The variability in downward export fluxes in this region, with strongly varying surface productivity, upwelling intensities and water column oxygen content, is however poorly understood. Thorium-234 (234Th) is a powerful tracer to study the dynamics of export fluxes of carbon and other elements, yet intense advection and diffusion in nearshore environments impact the assessment of depth-integrated 234Th fluxes when not properly evaluated. Here we use ADCP current velocities, satellite wind stress and in situ microstructure measurements to determine the magnitude of advective and diffusive fluxes over the entire 234Th flux budget at 25 stations from 11° S to 16° S in the Peruvian OMZ. Contrary to findings along the GEOTRACES P16 eastern section, our results showed that weak surface wind stress during our cruises induced low upwelling rates and minimal upwelling 234Th fluxes, whereas vertical diffusive 234Th fluxes were important only at a few shallow shelf stations. Similarly, horizontal advective and diffusive 234Th fluxes were negligible due to small alongshore 234Th gradients. Our data indicated a poor correlation between seawater 238U activity and salinity. Assuming a linear relationship between the two would lead to significant underestimations of the total 234Th flux by up to 40 % in our study. Proper evaluation of both physical transport and variability in 238U activity is thus crucial in coastal 234Th flux studies. Finally, we showed large temporal variations on 234Th residence times across the Peruvian upwelling zone, and cautioned future carbon export studies to take these temporal changes into consideration while evaluating carbon export efficiency.

Ruifang Xie et al.

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Status: final response (author comments only)
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Ruifang Xie et al.

Ruifang Xie et al.


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Latest update: 07 Jul 2020
Publications Copernicus
Short summary
Thorium-234 (234Th) is widely used to study carbon fluxes from the surface ocean to depth. But few studies stress the relevance of oceanic advection and diffusion on the downward 234Th fluxes in nearshore environments. Our study in offshore Peru showed strong temporal variations in both the importance of physical processes on 234Th flux estimates and the oceanic residence time of 234Th, whereas salinity-derived seawater 238U activity accounted for up to 40% errors in 234Th flux estimates.
Thorium-234 (234Th) is widely used to study carbon fluxes from the surface ocean to depth. But...