Testing models of thorium and particle cycling in the ocean using data from station GT11-22 of the U.S. GEOTRACES North Atlantic section

Paul Lerner, Olivier Marchal, Phoebe J. Lam, Robert F. Anderson, Ken Buesseler, Matthew A. Charette, R. Lawrence Edwards, Christopher T. Hayes, Kuo Fang Huang, Yanbin Lu, Laura F. Robinson, Andrew Solow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations

Abstract

Thorium is a highly particle-reactive element that possesses different measurable radio-isotopes in seawater, with well-constrained production rates and very distinct half-lives. As a result, Th has emerged as a key tracer for the cycling of marine particles and of their chemical constituents, including particulate organic carbon. Here two different versions of a model of Th and particle cycling in the ocean are tested using an unprecedented data set from station GT11-22 of the U.S. GEOTRACES North Atlantic Section: (i) 228,230,234Th activities of dissolved and particulate fractions, (ii) 228Ra activities, (iii) 234,238U activities estimated from salinity data and an assumed 234U/238U ratio, and (iv) particle concentrations, below a depth of 125 m. The two model versions assume a single class of particles but rely on different assumptions about the rate parameters for sorption reactions and particle processes: a first version (V1) assumes vertically uniform parameters (a popular description), whereas the second (V2) does not. Both versions are tested by fitting to the GT11-22 data using generalized nonlinear least squares and by analyzing residuals normalized to the data errors. We find that model V2 displays a significantly better fit to the data than model V1. Thus, the mere allowance of vertical variations in the rate parameters can lead to a significantly better fit to the data, without the need to modify the structure or add any new processes to the model. To understand how the better fit is achieved we consider two parameters, K=k1/(k-1+β-1) and K/P, where k1 is the adsorption rate constant, k-1 the desorption rate constant, β-1 the remineralization rate constant, and P the particle concentration. We find that the rate constant ratio K is large (0.2) in the upper 1000 m and decreases to a nearly uniform value of ca. 0.12 below 2000 m, implying that the specific rate at which Th attaches to particles relative to that at which it is released from particles is higher in the upper ocean than in the deep ocean. In contrast, K/P increases with depth below 500 m. The parameters K and K/P display significant positive and negative monotonic relationship with P, respectively, which is collectively consistent with a particle concentration effect.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)57-79
Number of pages23
JournalDeep-Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers
Volume113
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We acknowledge the U.S. National Science Foundation for providing funding for this study (Grant OCE-1232578 ) and for U.S. GEOTRACES North Atlantic section ship time, sampling, and data analysis. The U.S. NSF also supported the generation of 230 Th data (OCE-0927064 to LDEO, OCE-O092860 to WHOI, and OCE-0927754 to UMN) and 228,234 Th data (OCE-0925158 to WHOI). We thank the two chief scientists of the GA03 section (Ed Boyle and Bill Jenkins) as well as the captain, the crew, and the scientific party on the R/V Knorr, which completed this section. We are also grateful to the scientists and staff involved in the collection and analysis of the thorium isotope and particle data.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Elsevier Ltd.

Keywords

  • GEOTRACES
  • Inverse method
  • Model
  • North Atlantic
  • Particles
  • Reversible exchange
  • Thorium

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