Processes determining the marine alkalinity and carbonate saturation distributions

We introduce a composite tracer, Alk*, that has a global distribution primarily determined by CaCO3 precipitation and dissolution. Alk* also highlights riverine alkalinity plumes that are due to dissolved calcium carbonate from land. We estimate the Arctic receives approximately twice the riverine alkalinity per unit area as the Atlantic, and 8 times that of the other oceans. Riverine inputs broadly elevate Alk* in the Arctic surface and particularly near river mouths. Strong net carbonate precipitation lowers basin mean Indian and Atlantic Alk*, while upwelling of dissolved CaCO3 rich deep waters elevates Northern Pacific and Southern Ocean Alk*. We use the Alk* distribution to estimate the carbonate saturation variability resulting from CaCO3 cycling and other processes. We show regional variations in surface carbonate saturation are due to temperature changes driving CO2 fluxes and, to a lesser extent, freshwater cycling. Calcium carbonate cycling plays a tertiary role. Monitoring the Alk* distribution would allow us to isolate the impact of acidification on biological calcification and remineralization.

Carter B. R., Toggweiler J. R., Key R. M. & Sarmiento J. L., 2014. Processes determining the marine alkalinity and carbonate saturation distributions. Biogeosciences Discussions, 11: 11139-11178. Article.

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