Understanding the ocean carbon and sulfur cycles in the context of a variable ocean : a study of anthropogenic carbon storage and dimethylsulfide production in the Atlantic Ocean

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Levine, Naomi M.
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Atlantic Ocean
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Dimethyl sulphide
Sulfur cycle
Anthropogenic activity is rapidly changing the global climate through the emission of carbon dioxide. Ocean carbon and sulfur cycles have the potential to impact global climate directly and through feedback loops. Numerical modeling, field and laboratory studies are used to improve our mechanistic understanding of the impact of natural variability on carbon and sulfur cycling. Variability in ocean physics, specifically changes in vertical mixing, is shown to significantly impact both cycles. The impact of interannual variability on the detection and attribution of anthropogenic carbon (Canthro) and the storage of Canthro in the Atlantic Ocean is analyzed using a three-dimensional global ocean model. Several regions are identified where empirical methods used to estimating Canthro are not able to correct for natural variability in the ocean carbon system. This variability is also shown to bias estimates of long term trends made from hydrographic observations. In addition, the storage of Canthro in North Atlantic mode waters is shown to be strongly influenced by water mass transformation during wintertime mixing events. The primary mechanisms responsible for seasonal variability in dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP) degradation and dimethylsulfide (DMS) production in the oligotrophic North Atlantic are investigated using potential enzyme activity and gene expression and abundance data. Vertical mixing and UV radiative stress appear to be the dominant mechanisms behind seasonal variability in DMS production in the Sargasso Sea. This thesis demonstrates the importance of and dynamics of bacterial communities responsible for DMSP degradation and DMS production in oligotrophic surface waters. These findings suggest that modifications to current numerical models of the upper ocean sulfur cycle may be needed. Specifically, current static parameterizations of bacterial DMSP cycling should be replaced with a dynamic bacterial component including DMSP degradation and DMS production.
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution February 2010
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