The distribution of oxygen in the western basin of the North Atlantic
Seiwell, Harry Richard
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The distribution of dissolved oxygen in the sea is controlled by a combination of its physical, chemical and biological characteristics; on the one hand, the chemical and biological activities tend to vary the content of the dissolved gas whereas, on the other, the circulatory agencies tend to redistribute the oxygen and bring about equilibrium. The fact that there is a constant consumption of dissolved oxygen in the depths and that frequent supersaturation with oxygen occurs at or near the surface of the ocean was observed on the "Challenger" expedition (Dittmar, 1884). An explanation of the cause of supersaturation of oxygen, however, was not forthcoming until 1899 when Martin Knudsen suggested that it was caused by photosynthetic activities of vegetable plankton. The original oxygen content of ocean waters has been obtained from a-thin surface layer in contact with the atmosphere and as a product of photosynthetic activity. In modern concepts of oceanography it is a generally accepted fact that the water masses of the depths of the oceans have at some time and place been at the surface where under the influence of climatic conditions they acquired distinct temperature, salinity and oxygen characteristics. The sinking of the surface layers in the so-called regions of convergence and their ultimate distribution by means of quasi-horizontal and convectional currents results in the whole of the ocean basins being filled with water which has acquired its fundamental characteristics while under the influence of atmospheric conditions. From general knowledge of oceanic circulation, based on researches of Nansen (1912), Jacobsen (1929), Wüst (1928), etc., the water of the western basin of the North Atlantic is probably of several origins and consequently of different ages and oxygen contents. Thus, the deepest part of the whole basin, up to depths of 2000-1500 meters appears to contain water which, for the most part, originated at the surface in high North Atlantic latitudes. Lying on top of this deepest water there is, in the northern half of the region, what appears to be a mixture of it and other North Atlantic water, while in the southern half of the region there is at intermediate depths a mass of water which apparently originated at the surface in high latitudes of the South Atlantic.
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