Towards a quality-controlled and accessible Pitzer model for seawater and related systems

David Turner, Eric P. Achterberg, Chen-Tung A. Chen, Simon Clegg, Vanessa Hatje, Maria Maldonado, Sylvia G. Sander, Constant M. van den Berg, Mona Wells

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We elaborate the need for a quality-controlled chemical speciation model for seawater and related natural waters, work which forms the major focus of SCOR Working Group 145. Model development is based on Pitzer equations for the seawater electrolyte and trace components. These equations can be used to calculate activities of dissolved ions and molecules and, in combination with thermodynamic equilibrium constants, chemical speciation. The major tasks to be addressed are ensuring internal consistency of the Pitzer model parameters (expressing the interactions between pairs and triplets of species, which ultimately determines the calculated activities), assessing uncertainties, and identifying important data gaps that should be addressed by new measurements. It is recognised that natural organic matter plays an important role in many aquatic ecosystems, and options for including this material in a Pitzer-based model are discussed. The process of model development begins with the core components which include the seawater electrolyte and the weak acids controlling pH. This core model can then be expanded by incorporating additional chemical components, changing the standard seawater composition and/or broadening the range of temperature and pressure, without compromising its validity. Seven important areas of application are identified: open ocean acidification; micro-nutrient biogeochemistry and geochemical tracers; micro-nutrient behaviour in laboratory studies; water quality in coastal and estuarine waters; cycling of nutrients and trace metals in pore waters; chemical equilibria in hydrothermal systems; brines and salt lakes.
Original languageEnglish
Article number139
JournalFrontiers in Marine Science
Publication statusPublished - 16 Sep 2016


  • chemical speciation
  • Seawater
  • modelling
  • Equilibria
  • pH
  • Trace metals
  • biogeochemical cycles

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