Oxygen minimum zones in the eastern tropical Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Karstensen, Johannes , Stramma, Lothar and Visbeck, Martin (2008) Oxygen minimum zones in the eastern tropical Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Progress in Oceanography, 77 (4). pp. 331-350. DOI 10.1016/j.pocean.2007.05.009.

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Within the eastern tropical oceans of the Atlantic and Pacific basin vast oxygen minimum zones (OMZ) exist in the depth range between 100 and 900 m. Minimum oxygen values are reached at 300–500 m depth which in the eastern Pacific become suboxic (dissolved oxygen content <4.5 μmol kg−1) with dissolved oxygen concentration of less than 1 μmol kg−1. The OMZ of the eastern Atlantic is not suboxic and has relatively high oxygen minimum values of about 17 μmol kg−1 in the South Atlantic and more than 40 μmol kg−1 in the North Atlantic. About 20 (40%) of the North Pacific volume is occupied by an OMZ when using 45 μmol kg−1 (or 90 μmol kg−1, respectively) as an upper bound for OMZ oxygen concentration for ocean densities lighter than σθ < 27.2 kg m−3. The relative volumes reduce to less than half for the South Pacific (7% and 13%, respectively). The abundance of OMZs are considerably smaller (1% and 7%) for the South Atlantic and only ∼0% and 5% for the North Atlantic. Thermal domes characterized by upward displacements of isotherms located in the northeastern Pacific and Atlantic and in the southeastern Atlantic are co-located with the centres of the OMZs. They seem not to be directly involved in the generation of the OMZs.

OMZs are a consequence of a combination of weak ocean ventilation, which supplies oxygen, and respiration, which consumes oxygen. Oxygen consumption can be approximated by the apparent oxygen utilization (AOU). However, AOU scaled with an appropriate consumption rate (aOUR) gives a time, the oxygen age. Here we derive oxygen ages using climatological AOU data and an empirical estimate of aOUR. Averaging oxygen ages for main thermocline isopycnals of the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean exhibit an exponential increase with density without an obvious signature of the OMZs. Oxygen supply originates from a surface outcrop area and can also be approximated by the turn-over time, the ratio of ocean volume to ventilating flux. The turn-over time corresponds well to the average oxygen ages for the well ventilated waters. However, in the density ranges of the suboxic OMZs the turn-over time substantially increases. This indicates that reduced ventilation in the outcrop is directly related to the existence of suboxic OMZs, but they are not obviously related to enhanced consumption indicated by the oxygen ages. The turn-over time suggests that the lower thermocline of the North Atlantic would be suboxic but at present this is compensated by the import of water from the well ventilated South Atlantic. The turn-over time approach itself is independent of details of ocean transport pathways. Instead the geographical location of the OMZ is to first order determined by: (i) the patterns of upwelling, either through Ekman or equatorial divergence, (ii) the regions of general sluggish horizontal transport at the eastern boundaries, and (iii) to a lesser extent to regions with high productivity as indicated through ocean colour data.

Document Type: Article
Keywords: Oxygen minimum zones, Water mass spreading, Eastern tropical Atlantic, Eastern tropical Pacific, Suboxic, Water age, tropical atlantic, Eastern Atlantic, Tropical Pacific, Eastern Pacific
Research affiliation: OceanRep > SFB 754
OceanRep > SFB 754 > A5
OceanRep > The Future Ocean - Cluster of Excellence
OceanRep > GEOMAR > FB1 Ocean Circulation and Climate Dynamics > FB1-PO Physical Oceanography
Refereed: Yes
Open Access Journal?: No
DOI etc.: 10.1016/j.pocean.2007.05.009
ISSN: 0079-6611
Projects: SFB754, Future Ocean
Date Deposited: 03 Dec 2008 16:51
Last Modified: 23 Sep 2019 20:52
URI: http://oceanrep.geomar.de/id/eprint/7187

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