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Subduction of carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen in the northeast Atlantic

Abstract : Northeast Atlantic mode waters (NEAMW) are formed by subduction in a region known to be a strong sink of atmospheric CO2. This study investigates the biological and physical carbon pumps involved in this sink. For that purpose, we estimate the annual transfer of carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen from the surface into the ocean interior through NEAMW subduction. Our estimates are based on a model simulation constrained with data collected during the Programme Océan Multidisciplinaire Méso Echelle (POMME). We found that subduction accounts for a large proportion of carbon export below the mixed layer in the POMME region (38°N-45°N, 16°W-22°W). Fifty percent of labile organic carbon is exported by the biological pump and 50% by subduction; 98% of the total carbon flux below the mixed layer is due to carbon subduction, essentially in the form of dissolved inorganic carbon and of more refractory dissolved organic matter. This is because they are the dominant pools of carbon and are passing through the winter mixed-layer depth gradient that characterizes the region. Our results emphasize that the net export of carbon represents a small fraction of the fluxes of carbon across the mixed layer through the processes of subduction and obduction. Moreover, our results indicate that NEAMW subduction occurs before the spring bloom. This implies that NEAMW is mostly subducted with end-winter characteristics with, in particular, relatively high nutrient content. This reflects a relative inefficiency in nutrient utilization and contrasts with subtropical mode waters, which are subducted during the bloom and are thus relatively poor in nutrients when they are subducted.
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Pierre Karleskind, Marina Lévy, Laurent Mémery. Subduction of carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen in the northeast Atlantic. Journal of Geophysical Research, American Geophysical Union, 2011, 116, pp.C02025. ⟨10.1029/2010JC006446⟩. ⟨hal-00634525⟩

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