Modeling the transport pathways of iron from the continental shelves to the Southern Ocean

Friday, 19 December 2014
Ryan Birmingham, Georgia Institute of Technology Main Campus, Atlanta, GA, United States and Takamitsu Ito, Georgia Institute of Technolog, Atlanta, GA, United States
We use a numerical ocean model to evaluate the hypothesis that the continental shelves are significant sources of dissolved iron to the Southern Ocean. We simulate the distribution of passive tracers released from the 18 different continental shelf regions of the extra-tropical southern hemisphere oceans using an offline, eddy-permitting transport model. The circulation fields are taken from the Southern Ocean State Estimate, and we only simulate the transport of inert tracers focusing on the physical transport pathways. The resulting tracer fields are then compared with the remotely sensed ocean color data, revealing a remarkable resemblance between the distributions of shelf-source tracers and the climatological surface chlorophyll-a concentrations. We further analyze the spatial pattern of simulated tracer fields in relation to satellite ocean color data. Dynamic ocean features such as the Southern Ocean fronts and coastal waters are reflected in both the tracer model and the observed biological productivity. Our results support the overall importance of continental shelves as a potential source region for dissolved iron. The relative importance of different shelf regions is found to vary significantly depending on the relevant circulation features.