International News

    Physical controls on oxygen distribution and denitrification potential in the north west Arabian Sea

    At suboxic oxygen concentrations, key biogeochemical cycles change and denitrification becomes the dominant remineralization pathway. Earth system models predict oxygen loss across most ocean basins in the next century; oxygen minimum zones near suboxia may become suboxic and therefore denitrifying. Using an ocean glider survey and historical data, we show oxygen loss in the Gulf of Oman (from 6‐12 to < 2 μmol kg‐1) not represented in climatologies. Because of the non‐linearity between denitrification and oxygen concentration, resolutions of current Earth system models are too coarse to accurately estimate denitrification. We develop a novel physical proxy for oxygen from the glider data and use a high resolution physical model to show eddy stirring of oxygen across the Gulf of Oman. We use the model to investigate spatial and seasonal differences in the ratio of oxic and suboxic water across the Gulf of Oman and waters exported to the wider Arabian Sea.
    Oxygen is present in the ocean and is required by all marine plants and animals to breathe. In certain regions around the world, oxygen concentrations reach very low levels. These are known as “oxygen minimum zones”. When oxygen is absent, chemical cycling of nitrogen, a key nutrient for plant growth, changes dramatically.Computer simulations of ocean oxygen show a decrease in oxygen over the next century and growing oxygen minimum zones. However, these simulations have a difficult time representing small but very important features such as eddies which impact how oxygen is transported. It is difficult to predict what will happen in the biggest of the world’s oxygen minimum zones, the Arabian Sea, as piracy and geopolitical tensions have limited past opportunities for observing these processes.To remedy this, we deployed two remote‐controlled submarines, known as a Seagliders, in the Gulf of Oman. These instruments measured a strong decrease of oxygen in the oxygen minimum zone compared to pre‐1990 values. We then combined the Seaglider data with a very high resolution computer simulation to determine how oxygen is spread around the northwestern Arabian Sea throughout different seasons and the monsoons.

    Related Articles