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Transit Time Distributions and Ventilation Pathways Using CFCs and Lagrangian Backtracking in the South Atlantic of an Eddying Ocean Model

Manita ChoukseyaInstitut für Meereskunde, Universität Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany
bInstitut für Umweltphysik, Universität Bremen, Bremen, Germany

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Alexa GrieselaInstitut für Meereskunde, Universität Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany

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Carsten EdenaInstitut für Meereskunde, Universität Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany

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Reiner SteinfeldtbInstitut für Umweltphysik, Universität Bremen, Bremen, Germany

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Abstract

Transit time distributions (TTDs) for the Antarctic Intermediate Water (AAIW) in the South Atlantic Ocean are estimated from an eddying ocean model with a twofold scope: validation of the TTD method and identifying pathways of the AAIW. The TTDs are inferred both from Lagrangian particle backtracking and the modeled CFC-11 concentrations, under the assumption that the TTDs can be described with an inverse Gaussian function. A bimodal distribution is obtained for the Lagrangian TTDs with four major subduction regions identified: near the Agulhas retroflection, south of New Zealand, west of the Drake Passage (smallest mean age Γ = 13 years), and in the Argentine basin (largest mean age Γ = 25 years). With the Southern Ocean as source region, the inverse Gaussian is a reasonable representation for the TTDs in the eastern Atlantic basin (40°–35°S, 0°–20°E), whereas the fit for region west (40°–35°S, 60°–40°W) of the mid-Atlantic ridge is not as good and overestimates the TTDs for transit times < 15 years. Mean ages from the modeled CFC-11 are mostly larger (up to 12 years) in the eastern Atlantic basin, and they are mostly smaller than the Lagrangian mean ages in the west. Both methods yield mean ages smaller in the western than in the eastern Atlantic basin and an aging of AAIW from the 1990s to the 2000s that is consistent with reduced flow velocities. The Antarctic Circumpolar Current appears to be the prime determinant of the transit times. The results suggest that the inverse Gaussian, despite assuming 1D advection–diffusion with constant mean flow and diffusivity, is a surprisingly good fit.

Significance Statement

In this article, we assess the transit time distribution method, often used to estimate anthropogenic carbon uptake in the ocean from observations, thereby exploring particle pathways from the surface into the ocean interior in the South Atlantic Ocean. We track thousands of particles in a model from their point of origin near the surface to the ocean interior. The tracking reveals multiple routes and gives the actual travel time of these particles, which we compare with the travel times predicted by theory. Thus, this research deepens our understanding of the routes and travel times of the water particles, which is important for the ocean circulation, and provides insights to improve the methods to infer anthropogenic carbon uptake, storage, and transport.

© 2022 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Manita Chouksey, manita.chouksey@uni-hamburg.de

Abstract

Transit time distributions (TTDs) for the Antarctic Intermediate Water (AAIW) in the South Atlantic Ocean are estimated from an eddying ocean model with a twofold scope: validation of the TTD method and identifying pathways of the AAIW. The TTDs are inferred both from Lagrangian particle backtracking and the modeled CFC-11 concentrations, under the assumption that the TTDs can be described with an inverse Gaussian function. A bimodal distribution is obtained for the Lagrangian TTDs with four major subduction regions identified: near the Agulhas retroflection, south of New Zealand, west of the Drake Passage (smallest mean age Γ = 13 years), and in the Argentine basin (largest mean age Γ = 25 years). With the Southern Ocean as source region, the inverse Gaussian is a reasonable representation for the TTDs in the eastern Atlantic basin (40°–35°S, 0°–20°E), whereas the fit for region west (40°–35°S, 60°–40°W) of the mid-Atlantic ridge is not as good and overestimates the TTDs for transit times < 15 years. Mean ages from the modeled CFC-11 are mostly larger (up to 12 years) in the eastern Atlantic basin, and they are mostly smaller than the Lagrangian mean ages in the west. Both methods yield mean ages smaller in the western than in the eastern Atlantic basin and an aging of AAIW from the 1990s to the 2000s that is consistent with reduced flow velocities. The Antarctic Circumpolar Current appears to be the prime determinant of the transit times. The results suggest that the inverse Gaussian, despite assuming 1D advection–diffusion with constant mean flow and diffusivity, is a surprisingly good fit.

Significance Statement

In this article, we assess the transit time distribution method, often used to estimate anthropogenic carbon uptake in the ocean from observations, thereby exploring particle pathways from the surface into the ocean interior in the South Atlantic Ocean. We track thousands of particles in a model from their point of origin near the surface to the ocean interior. The tracking reveals multiple routes and gives the actual travel time of these particles, which we compare with the travel times predicted by theory. Thus, this research deepens our understanding of the routes and travel times of the water particles, which is important for the ocean circulation, and provides insights to improve the methods to infer anthropogenic carbon uptake, storage, and transport.

© 2022 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Manita Chouksey, manita.chouksey@uni-hamburg.de
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