Chlorofluoromethanes in the northeast Pacific Ocean: Measured vertical distributions and application as transient tracers of upper ocean mixing


  • R. H. Gammon,

  • J. Cline,

  • D. Wisegarver


The vertical distributions of the man-made chlorofluoromethanes CCl3F (F-11) and CCl2F2(F-12) have been measured at two locations in the eastern North Pacific Ocean to depths greater than 500 m. At both sites (46°N, 125°W off the Washington-Oregon coast and 50°N, 140°W in the Gulf of Alaska) the halomethane concentrations were found to fall off exponentially with increasing depth below the mixed layer. For F-11 at 50°N, the surface concentration (3.2×10−12 mol/l) was found to be in saturation equilibrium with the measured atmospheric concentration (190 pptv). The measured chlorofluoromethane profiles have been interpreted in terms of a one-dimensional model for the vertical diffusion/advection of an exponentially driven, conservative tracer into a bottomless ocean. In the appropriate limit of ‘transient steady state’ the projected profiles are simple exponentials described by an advective-diffusive scale depth H, which is a function of the vertical eddy diffusivity Kz, the upwelling velocity w, and the characteristic time τ for the exponential growth of the tracer concentration at the boundary. At the two ocean locations studied the freon thermocline depth scales were in the range H ≃ 120–140 m, with F-12 generally 10–20% deeper than F-11. At 50°N the F-11 and F-12 vertical profiles gave consistent values of vertical diffusivity (Kz ∼ 1.2–1.3 cm2 s−1) and upwelling velocity (w ≃ 12–14 m yr−1). The model also allows a simple scaling from one exponentially driven, transient tracer (freon) to another (fossil fuel CO2), leading to a predicted mean depth of penetration of fossil fuel CO2 of approximately 300 m in the eastern North Pacific.