Estimation of the atmospheric flux of nutrients and trace metals to the Eastern Tropical North Atlantic Ocean

Claire Powell, Alex Baker (Lead Author), Tim Jickells, Hermann Bange, Rosemary Chance, Chan Yodle

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Atmospheric deposition contributes potentially significant amounts of the nutrients iron, nitrogen and phosphorus (via mineral dust and anthropogenic aerosols) to the oligotrophic tropical North Atlantic Ocean. Transport pathways, deposition processes and source strengths contributing to this atmospheric flux are all highly variable in space and time. Atmospheric sampling was conducted during 28 research cruises through the Eastern Tropical North Atlantic (ETNA) over a 12 year period and a substantial dataset of measured concentrations of nutrients and trace metals in aerosol and rainfall over the region was acquired. This database was used to quantify (on a spatial- and seasonal-basis) the atmospheric input of ammonium, nitrate, soluble phosphorus and soluble and total iron, aluminium and manganese to the ETNA. The magnitude of atmospheric input varies strongly across the region, with high rainfall rates associated with the Inter-tropical Convergence Zone contributing to high wet deposition fluxes in the south, particularly for soluble species. Dry deposition fluxes of species associated with mineral dust exhibited strong seasonality, with highest fluxes associated with winter-time low-level transport of Saharan dust. Overall (wet plus dry) atmospheric inputs of soluble and total trace metals were used to estimate their soluble fractions. These also varied with season and were generally lower in the dry north than in the wet south. The ratio of ammonium plus nitrate to soluble iron in deposition to the ETNA was lower than the N:Fe requirement for algal growth in all cases, indicating the importance of the atmosphere as a source of excess iron.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4029–4045
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number10
Early online date13 Oct 2015
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2015

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