Due to its importance as a limiting nutrient for phytoplankton growth in large regions of the world’s oceans, ocean water column observations of concentration of the trace-metal iron (Fe) have increased markedly over recent decades. Here we compile >13 000 global measurements of dissolved Fe (dFe) and make this available to the community. We then conduct a synthesis study focussed on the Southern Ocean, where dFe plays a fundamental role in governing the carbon cycle, using four regions, six basins and five depth intervals as a framework. Our analysis highlights depth-dependent trends in the properties of dFe between different regions and basins. In general, surface dFe is highest in the Atlantic basin and the Antarctic region. While attributing drivers to these patterns is uncertain, inter-basin patterns in surface dFe might be linked to differing degrees of dFe inputs, while variability in biological consumption between regions covaries with the associated surface dFe differences. Opposite to the surface, dFe concentrations at depth are typically higher in the Indian basin and the Subantarctic region. The inter-region trends can be reconciled with similar ligand variability (although only from one cruise), and the inter-basin difference might be explained by differences in hydrothermal inputs suggested by modelling studies (Tagliabue et al., 2010) that await observational confirmation. We find that even in regions where many dFe measurements exist, the processes governing the seasonal evolution of dFe remain enigmatic, suggesting that, aside from broad Subantarctic – Antarctic trends, biological consumption might not be the major driver of dFe variability. This highlights the apparent importance of other processes such as exogenous inputs, physical transport/mixing or dFe recycling processes. Nevertheless, missing measurements during key seasonal transitions make it difficult to better quantify and understand surface water replenishment processes and the seasonal Fe cycle. Finally, we detail the degree of seasonal coverage by region, basin and depth. By synthesising prior measurements, we suggest a role for different processes and highlight key gaps in understanding, which we hope can help structure future research efforts in the Southern Ocean.Link to Full Article
Iron availability limits primary production in >30% of the world’s oceans; hence phytoplankton have developed acclimation strategies. In particular, cyanobacteria express IsiA (iron-stress-induced) under iron stress, which can become the most abundant chl-binding protein in the cell. Within iron-limited oceanic regions with significant cyanobacterial biomass, IsiA may represent a significant fraction of the total chl. We spectroscopically measured the effective cross-section of the photosynthetic reaction center PSI (σPSI ) in vivo and biochemically quantified the absolute abundance of PSI, PSII, and IsiA in the model cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803. We demonstrate that accumulation of IsiA results in a 60% increase in σPSI , in agreement with the theoretical increase in cross-section based on the structure of the biochemically isolated IsiA-PSI supercomplex from cyanobacteria. Deriving a chl budget, we suggest that IsiA plays a primary role as a light-harvesting antenna for PSI. On progressive iron-stress in culture, IsiA continues to accumulate without a concomitant increase in σPSI , suggesting that there may be a secondary role for IsiA. In natural populations, the potential physiological significance of the uncoupled pool of IsiA remains to be established. However, the functional role as a PSI antenna suggests that a large fraction of IsiA-bound chl is directly involved in photosynthetic electron transport.Link to Full Article
The Ship Of Opportunity Program (SOOP) is an international World Meteorological Organization (WMO)-Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) program that addresses both scientific and operational goals to contribute to building a sustained ocean observing system. The SOOP main mission is the collection of upper ocean temperature profiles using eXpendable BathyThermographs (XBTs), mostly from volunteer vessels. The XBT deployments are designated by their spatial and temporal sampling goals or modes of deployment (Low Density, Frequently Repeated, and High Density) and sample along well-observed transects, on either large or small spatial scales, or at special locations such as boundary currents and chokepoints, all of which are complementary to the Argo global broad scale array.Link to Full Article
Maps of Absolute Dynamic Topography (MADT) at the Greenwich Meridian are used to identify the locations and gradients of the various fronts in the Southern Ocean (Subtropical Front, Sub-Antarctic Front, Antarctic Polar Front, Southern ACC Front, and Southern Boundary of the ACC). It is found that the frontal gradients in Sea Surface Height (SSH) used to determine these fronts are consistent with those determined from hydrographic data. A strong relationship was found to exist between the position of all the fronts and the gradients of SSH except for the Southern Boundary (SBdy) front. Substantial seasonality and interannual variability in the frontal positions is found. All the fronts except the Antarctic Polar Front (APF) show a poleward tendency in position over the last 15-years. Using the MADT-derived frontal positions, the meridional zones between the fronts are examined and the mean zonal sea surface temperature (SST) is used to consider the surface variability in these frontal zones. In addition to the strong seasonality and interannual variability in the SST of these frontal zones, there is also a tendency towards warming (cooling) of the Sub-Antarctic and Antarctic Polar Zones (Southern Boundary Zone). The tendencies in the frontal positions are consistent with a warming in the Southern Ocean except near the APF and the Southern ACC Front (SACCF).Link to Full Article
Swart et al. (2010) applied altimetry data to the gravest empirical mode south of Africa to yield a 16 year time series of temperature and salinity sections. In this study we use these thermohaline sections to derive weekly estimates of heat content (HC) and salt content (SC) at the GoodHope meridional transect of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC). These estimates compare favorably to observed data. The resulting 16 year time series of HC and SC estimates are used to explain the subsurface thermohaline variability at each ACC front and frontal zone. The variability at the Subantarctic Zone (SAZ) is principally driven by the presence of Agulhas Rings, which occur in this region approximately 2.7 times per annum and are responsible for the longest and highest scales of observed variability. The variability of the SAZ is responsible for over 50% and 60% of the total ACC HC and SC variability, respectively. Poleward of the SAZ, the variability is largely determined by the influence of the local topography on the fronts of the region and can be explained by the conservation of potential vorticity. Wavelet analysis is conducted on the time series of meridionally integrated HC and SC in each ACC front and frontal zone, revealing a consistent seasonal mode that becomes more dominant toward the southern limit of the ACC. The lower-frequency signals are compared with two dominant modes of variability in the Southern Ocean. The Southern Annular Mode correlates well with the HC and SC anomaly estimates at the Antarctic Polar Front, while the Southern Oscillation Index appears to have connections to the variability found in the very southern domains of the ACC.
Hydrographic transects of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) south of Africa are projected into baroclinic stream function space parameterized by pressure and dynamic height. This produces a two-dimensional gravest empirical mode (GEM) that captures more than 97% of the total density and temperature variance in the ACC domain. Weekly maps of absolute dynamic topography data, derived from satellite altimetry, are combined with the GEM to obtain a 16 year time series of temperature and salinity fields. The time series of thermohaline fields are compared with independent in situ observations. The residuals decrease sharply below the thermocline and through the entire water column the mean root-mean-square (RMS) error is 0.15°C, 0.02, and 0.02 kg m−3 for temperature, salinity, and density, respectively. The positions of ACC fronts are followed in time using satellite altimetry data. These locations correspond to both the observed and GEM-based positions. The available temperature and salinity information allow one to calculate the baroclinic zonal velocity field between the surface and 2500 dbar. This is compared with velocity measurements from repeat hydrographic transects at the GoodHope line. The net accumulated transports of the ACC, derived from these different methods are within 1–3 Sv of each other. Similarly, GEM-produced cross-sectional velocities at 300 dbar compare closely to the observed data, with the RMS difference not exceeding 0.03 m s−1. The continuous time series of thermohaline fields, described here, are further exploited to understand the dynamic nature of the ACC fronts in the region, and which is given by Swart and Speich (2010).Link to Full Article
Data from five CTD and 18 XBT sections are used to estimate the baroclinic transport (referenced to 2500 dbar) of the ACC south of Africa. Surface dynamic height is derived from XBT data by establishing an empirical relationship between vertically integrated temperature and surface dynamic height calculated from CTD data. This temperature-derived dynamic height data compare closely with dynamic heights calculated from CTD data (average RMS difference = 0.05 dyn m). A second empirical relationship between surface dynamic height and cumulative baroclinic transport is defined, allowing us to study a more extensive time series of baroclinic transport derived from upper ocean temperature sections. From 18 XBT transects of the ACC, the average baroclinic transport, relative to 2500 dbar, is estimated at 90 ± 2.4 Sv. This estimate is comparable to baroclinic transport values calculated from CTD data. We then extend the baroclinic transport time-series by applying an empirical relationship between dynamic height and cumulative baroclinic transport to weekly maps of absolute dynamic topography derived from satellite altimetry, between 14 October 1992 and 23 May 2007. The estimated mean baroclinic transport of the ACC, obtained this way, is 84.7 ± 3.0 Sv. These transports agree well with simultaneous in-situ estimates (RMS difference in net transport = 5.2 Sv). This suggests that sea level anomalies largely reflect baroclinic transport changes above 2500 dbar.Link to Full Article
A detailed hydrographic and biological survey was carried out in the region of the South-West Indian Ridge during April 2004. Altimetry and hydrographic data have identified this region as an area of high flow variability. Hydrographic data revealed that here the Subantarctic Polar Front (SAF) and Antarctic Polar Front (APF) converge to form a highly intense frontal system. Water masses identified during the survey showed a distinct separation in properties between the northwestern and southeastern corners. In the north-west, water masses were distinctly Subantarctic (>8.5°C, salinity >34.2), suggesting that the SAF lay extremely far to the south.
In the southeast corner water masses were typical of the Antarctic zone, showing a distinct subsurface temperature minimum of <2.5°C. Total integrated chl-a concentration during the survey ranged from 4.15 to 22.81 mg chl-a m–2, with the highest concentrations recorded at stations occupied in the frontal region. These data suggest that the region of the South-West Indian Ridge represents not only an area of elevated biological activity but also acts as a strong biogeographic barrier to the spatial distribution of zooplankton.
This study was undertaken to characterise the seasonal cycle of air–sea fluxes of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the southern Benguela upwelling system off the South African west coast. Samples were collected from six monthly cross-shelf cruises in the St. Helena Bay region during 2010. CO2 fluxes were calculated from pCO2 derived from total alkalinity and dissolved inorganic carbon and scatterometer-based winds. Notwithstanding that it is one of the most biologically productive eastern boundary upwelling systems in the global ocean, the southern Benguela was found to be a very small net annual CO2 sink of -1.4 ± 0.6 mol C/m2 per year (1.7 Mt C/year). Regional primary productivity was offset by nearly equal rates of sediment and sub-thermocline remineralisation flux of CO2, which is recirculated to surface waters by upwelling. The juxtaposition of the strong, narrow near-shore out-gassing region and the larger, weaker offshore sink resulted in the shelf area being a weak CO2 sink in all seasons but autumn (-5.8, 1.4 and -3.4 mmol C/m2 per day for summer, autumn and winter, respectively).Link to Full Article
In this study we use the southern Benguela upwelling system to investigate the role of nutrient and carbon stoichiometry on carbonate dynamics in eastern boundary upwelling systems. Six months in 2010 were sampled along a cross-shelf transect. Data were classified into summer, autumn, and winter. Nitrate, phosphate, dissolved inorganic carbon, and total alkalinity ratios were used in a stoichiometric reconstruction model to determine the contribution of biogeochemical processes on a parcel of water as it upwelled. Deviations from the Redfield ratio were dominated by denitrification and sulfate reduction in the subsurface waters. The N:P ratio was lowest (7.2) during autumn once anoxic waters had formed. Total alkalinity (TA) generation by anaerobic remineralization decreased pCO2 by 227 μatm. Ventilation during summer and winter resulted in elevated N:P ratios (12.3). We propose that anaerobic production of TA has an important regional effect in mitigating naturally high CO2 and making upwelled waters less corrosive.Link to Full Article