Articles | Volume 20, issue 12
31 Dec 2002
 | 31 Dec 2002

Atmospheric and oceanic dust fluxes in the northeastern tropical Atlantic Ocean: how close a coupling?

A. Bory, F. Dulac, C. Moulin, I. Chiapello, P. P. Newton, W. Guelle, C. E. Lambert, and G. Bergametti

Abstract. Atmospheric inputs to the ocean of dust originating from Africa are compared with downward dust flux in the oceanic water column. Atmospheric fluxes were estimated using remote-sensing-derived dust optical thickness and parameters from a transport/deposition model (TM2z). Oceanic fluxes were measured directly over/in two regions of contrasting primary productivity of the northeastern tropical Atlantic (one mesotrophic and one oligotrophic, located at about 500 and 1500 km off Mauritania) underlying the offshore dust plume. In both regions, estimates of annual atmospheric dust inputs to the ocean surface are lower than, but of the same order of magnitude as, oceanic fluxes (49.5 and 8.8 mg.m-2 .d-1 in the mesotrophic and oligotrophic regions). Part of this mismatch may reflect both a general flaw in the dust grain size distribution used in transport models, which likely underestimates large particles, and/or lateral advection to each region of dustier surface waters from upstream, where dust deposition is higher. Higher-frequency temporal coupling between atmospheric and oceanic fluxes seems to be primary-productivity dependent, as hypothesized in previously reported studies.

Key words. Atmospheric composition and structure (aerosols and particles; geochemical cycles) Oceanography: biological and chemical (geochemistry)