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Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans








The NO and PO tracers (9[NO3-] + 02 and 135[PO4-] + 02, respectively,) and their derivative NO/PO have found increasing use in Arctic water mass analyses for identifying the specific basin or shelf areas from which surface waters originate, based upon assumed differences in Pacific- and Atlantic-derived content and basin-to-basin differences within the Arctic. Following shipboard sampling in June-September 1993 and May-June 1994, both north and south of Bering Strait, we have found evidence that Pacific-derived waters flowing north to Bering Strait do not necessarily have any unique NO, PO, or NO/PO identity that would permit unequivocal use as a water mass tracer. In particular, NO/PO ratios in the Bering Sea continental shelf (<150 m) waters varied from 0.7 to 1.1, which encompasses ratios previously reported for Arctic continental shelf and Atlantic origin waters in the Arctic Ocean. The highest NO/PO ratios (~ 1) in the Bering Sea were observed to the southwest of St. Lawrence Island, close to where high nutrient waters are first upwelled onto the shelf, and seasonally early in the biological production cycle. By contrast, later in the summer, north of Bering Strait, at the depth of the Arctic Ocean nutrient maximum, the highest concentrations of silica (~60 μM) were associated with low NO/PO ratios (-0.7). Apparent increases in the proportions of sea ice melt in these waters, inferred from 180 and salinity regressions, were associated with lower NO/PO ratios. This pattern, the potential for sea-air exchange, and a significant relationship between decreases in nitrate/phosphate ratios and both NO/PO ratios and silica concentrations indicate that biological and physical processes north and south of Bering Strait affect the fidelity of these nutrient-based tracers. These results indicate the need for consideration of shelf-based processes before NO/PO ratios and other nutrient-based tracers can be successfully applied as Arctic circulation tracers. Copyright 1999 by the American Geophysical Union.

Original Publication Citation

Cooper, L. W., Cota, G. F., Pomeroy, L. R., Grebmeier, J. M., & Whitledge, T. E. (1999). Modification of NO, PO, and NO/PO during flow across the Bering and Chukchi shelves: Implications for use as Arctic water mass tracers. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 104(C4), 7827-7836. doi:10.1029/1999jc900010

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