The recent distribution of lead in the Indian Ocean reflects the impact of regional emissions
Boyle, Edward A.
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Humans have injected lead (Pb) massively into the earth surface environment in a temporally and spatially evolving pattern. A significant fraction is transported by the atmosphere into the surface ocean where we can observe its transport by ocean currents and sinking particles. This study of the Indian Ocean documents high Pb concentrations in the northern and tropical surface waters, and extremely low Pb levels in the deep water. North of 20°S, dissolved Pb concentrations decrease from 42-82 pmol/Kg in surface waters to 1.5-3.3 pmol/Kg in deep waters. South of 20°S, surface water Pb concentrations decrease from 21 pmol/Kg at 31°S to 7 pmol/Kg at 62°S. This surface Pb concentration gradient reflects a southward decrease in anthropogenic Pb emissions. The upper waters of the north and central Indian Ocean have high Pb concentrations resulting from recent regional rapid industrialization and a late phase-out of leaded gasoline, and these concentrations are now higher than currently seen in the central North Pacific and North Atlantic Oceans. The Antarctic sector of the Indian Ocean shows very low concentrations due to limited regional anthropogenic Pb emissions, high scavenging rates, and rapid vertical mixing, but Pb still occurs at higher levels than would have existed centuries ago. Penetration of Pb into the northern and central Indian Ocean thermocline waters is minimized by limited ventilation. Pb concentrations in the deep Indian Ocean are comparable to the other oceans at the same latitude, and deep waters of the central Indian Ocean match the lowest observed oceanic Pb concentrations.
Author Posting. © The Author(s), 2014. This is the author's version of the work. It is posted here by permission of National Academy of Sciences for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of American 111 (2014): 15328–15331, doi:10.1073/pnas.1417370111
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