High-Resolution In Situ Oxygen-Argon Studies of Surface Biological and Physical Processes in the Polar Oceans
The Arctic Ocean and Western Antarctic Peninsula (WAP) are the fastest warming regions on the planet and are undergoing rapid climate and ecosystem changes. Until we can fully resolve the coupling between biological and physical processes we cannot predict how warming will influence carbon cycling and ecosystem function and structure in these sensitive and climactically important regions. My dissertation centers on the use of high-resolution measurements of surface dissolved gases, primarily O2 and Ar, as tracers or physical and biological functioning that we measure underway using an optode and Equilibrator Inlet Mass Spectrometry (EIMS). Total O2 measurements are common throughout the historical and autonomous record but are influenced by biological (net metabolic balance) and physical (temperature, salinity, pressure changes, ice melt/freeze, mixing, bubbles and diffusive gas exchange) processes. We use Ar, an inert gas with similar solubility properties to O2, to devolve distinct records of biological (O2/Ar) and physical (Ar) oxygen. These high-resolution measurements that expose intersystem coupling and submesoscale variability were central to studies in the Arctic Ocean, WAP and open Southern Ocean that make up this dissertation.
Key findings of this work include the documentation of under ice and ice-edge blooms and basin scale net sea ice freeze/melt processes in the Arctic Ocean. In the WAP O2 and pCO2 are both biologically driven and net community production (NCP) variability is controlled by Fe and light availability tied to glacial and sea ice meltwater input. Further, we present a feasibility study that shows the ability to use modeled Ar to derive NCP from total O2 records. This approach has the potential to unlock critical carbon flux estimates from historical and autonomous O2 measurements in the global oceans.
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