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Free Content Quantifying seasonal air-sea gas exchange processes using noble gas time-series: A design experiment

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A multi-year time-series of measurements of five noble gases (He, Ne, Ar, Kr, and Xe) at a subtropical ocean location may allow quantification of air-sea gas exchange parameters with tighter constraints than is currently available by other methods. We have demonstrated this using a one-dimensional upper ocean model forced by 6-hourly NCEP reanalysis winds and heat flux for the Sargasso Sea near Bermuda. We performed ensemble model runs to characterize the response of the modeled noble gas saturation anomalies to a range of air-sea gas exchange parameters. We then used inverse calculations to quantify the sensitivity of the parameters to hypothetical observations. These calculations show that with currently achievable measurement accuracies, noble gas concentrations in the Sargasso Sea could be used to constrain the magnitude of equilibrium gas exchange to ±11%, the magnitude of the total air injection flux to ±14%, and the magnitude of net photosynthetic oxygen production to ±1.5 mol O2 m−2 y−1. Additionally, we can use noble gases to quantify the relative contributions of bubbles that are partially dissolved to bubbles that are completely dissolved. These constraints are based on idealized assumptions and may not fully account for some of the uncertainties in the meteorological data, in lateral transport processes, and in the solubilities of the noble gases. As a limited demonstration, we applied this approach to a time series of He, Ne, Ar, and O2 measurements from the Sargasso Sea from 1985 to 1988 (data from Spitzer, 1989). Due to the limited number of gases measured and the lower accuracy of those measurements, the constraints in this example application are weaker than could be achieved with current capabilities.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: March 1, 2006

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  • The Journal of Marine Research publishes peer-reviewed research articles covering a broad array of topics in physical, biological and chemical oceanography. Articles that deal with processes, as well as those that report significant observations, are welcome. In the area of biology, studies involving coupling between ecological and physical processes are preferred over those that report systematics. Authors benefit from thorough reviews of their manuscripts, where an attempt is made to maximize clarity. The time between submission and publication is kept to a minimum; there is no page charge.
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