The triple oxygen isotope tracer of primary productivity in a dynamic ocean model

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Abstract

The triple oxygen isotopic composition of dissolved oxygen (17Δdis) was added to the ocean ecosystem and biogeochemistry component of the Community Earth System Model, version 1.1.1. Model simulations were used to investigate the biological and physical dynamics of 17Δdis and assess its application as a tracer of gross photosynthetic production (gross oxygen production (GOP)) of O2 in the ocean mixed layer. The model reproduced large-scale patterns of 17Δdis found in observational data across diverse biogeographical provinces. Mixed layer model performance was best in the Pacific and had a negative bias in the North Atlantic and a positive bias in the Southern Ocean. Based on model results, the steady state equation commonly used to calculate GOP from tracer values overestimated the globally averaged model GOP by 29%. Vertical entrainment/mixing and the time rate of change of 17Δdis were the two largest sources of bias when applying the steady state method to calculate GOP. Entrainment/mixing resulted in the largest overestimation in midlatitudes and during summer and fall and almost never caused an underestimation of GOP. The tracer time rate of change bias resulted both in underestimation of GOP (e.g., during spring blooms at high latitudes) and overestimation (e.g., during the summer following a bloom). Seasonally, bias was highest in the fall (September-October-November in the Northern Hemisphere, March-April-May in the Southern), overestimating GOP by 62%, globally averaged. Overall, the steady state method was most accurate in equatorial and low-latitude regions where it estimated GOP to within ±10%. Field applicable correction terms are derived for entrainment and mixing that capture 86% of model vertical bias and require only mixed layer depth history and triple oxygen isotope measurements from two depths.

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