Constraints on the salinity–oxygen isotope relationship in the central tropical Pacific Ocean

Conroy, Jessica L.; Cobb, Kim M.; Lynch-Stieglitz, Jean; Polissar, Pratigya Jeremy

Uncertainties surround the relationship between salinity and the stable isotopic composition of seawater, largely due to a dearth of modern seawater isotope data. Here we report 191 new, paired measurements of salinity and seawater oxygen isotopes (δ¹⁸O_sw) taken from the central tropical Pacific in May 2012, from the surface to 4600 m depth. We observe significant correlations between δ¹⁸O_sw and salinity across the study region, with slopes ranging from 0.23 to 0.31‰/psu for the mixed layer, and 0.35–0.42‰/psu for waters between the mixed layer and 500 m depth. When considering δ¹⁸O_sw–salinity across averages of individual water masses in the region, slopes range from 0.21 to 0.40‰/psu, albeit with appreciable scatter. Surface salinity and δ¹⁸O_sw data corresponding to the North Equatorial Countercurrent are significantly higher than previously observed, which we attribute to a weak westerly current and dry conditions in the region during the May 2012 cruise. Subsurface (80–500 m) salinity values from 2012 are significantly lower than corresponding values from pre-existing regional data, highlighting a different latitudinal sampling distribution, while subsurface δ¹⁸O_sw is not significantly different. Thus, in May 2012, δ¹⁸O_sw in this region could not be used to distinguish between subsurface water masses of different salinities. Unlike other regions where the surface ‘freshwater endmember’ is close to the δ¹⁸O value of regional precipitation, the freshwater endmember implied by our dataset (− 10.38‰) is consistent with a strong evaporative influence. Paired δ¹⁸O–δD values of precipitation and surface seawaters have similar slopes (5.0, 5.1), and relatively low intercepts (1.4, 0.8) indicating isotopic variability in both reservoirs is also partly controlled by evaporation.

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Academic Units
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Biology and Paleo Environment
Published Here
October 2, 2015