The distribution of lead concentrations and isotope compositions in the eastern Tropical Atlantic Ocean
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© 2018 The Author(s) Anthropogenic emissions have dominated marine Pb sources during the past century. Here we present Pb concentrations and isotope compositions for ocean depth profiles collected in the eastern Tropical Atlantic Ocean (GEOTRACES section GA06), to trace the transfer of anthropogenic Pb into the ocean interior. Variations in Pb concentration and isotope composition were associated with changes in hydrography. Water masses ventilated in the southern hemisphere generally featured lower 206 Pb/ 207 Pb and 208 Pb/ 207 Pb ratios than those ventilated in the northern hemisphere, in accordance with Pb isotope data of historic anthropogenic Pb emissions. The distributions of Pb concentrations and isotope compositions in northern sourced waters were consistent with differences in their ventilation timescales. For example, a Pb concentration maximum at intermediate depth (600–900 m, 35 pmol kg −1 ) in waters sourced from the Irminger/Labrador Seas, is associated with Pb isotope compositions ( 206 Pb/ 207 Pb = 1.1818–1.1824, 208 Pb/ 207 Pb = 2.4472–2.4483) indicative of northern hemispheric emissions during the 1950s and 1960s close to peak leaded petrol usage, and a transit time of ∼50–60 years. In contrast, North Atlantic Deep Water (2000–4000 m water depth) featured lower Pb concentrations and isotope compositions ( 206 Pb/ 207 Pb = 1.1762–1.184, 208 Pb/ 207 Pb = 2.4482–2.4545) indicative of northern hemispheric emissions during the 1910s and 1930s and a transit time of ∼80–100 years. This supports the notion that transient anthropogenic Pb inputs are predominantly transferred into the ocean interior by water mass transport. However, the interpretation of Pb concentration and isotope composition distributions in terms of ventilation timescales and pathways is complicated by (1) the chemical reactivity of Pb in the ocean, and (2) mixing of waters ventilated during different time periods. The complex effects of water mass mixing on Pb distributions is particularly apparent in seawater in the Tropical Atlantic Ocean which is ventilated from the southern hemisphere. In particular, South Atlantic Central Water and Antarctic Intermediate Water were dominated by anthropogenic Pb emitted during the last 50–100 years, despite estimates of much older average ventilation ages in this region.
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