Simulating transport of 129I and idealized tracers in the northern North Atlantic Ocean

TitleSimulating transport of 129I and idealized tracers in the northern North Atlantic Ocean
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsOrre, S, Smith, JN, Alfimov, J, Bentsen, M
JournalEnvironmental Fluid Mechanics
Date Published12/06/2009
PublisherSpringer Science+Business Media B.V.

Transport of the radioactive tracer Iodine-129 (129I, T1/2 = 15.7Myr) in the northern North Atlantic Ocean has been investigated using a global isopycnic Ocean General Circulation Model (OGCM) and observed data. 129I originates mainly from the nuclear fuel reprocessing plants in Sellafield (UK) and La Hague (France), and is transported northwards along the Norwegian coast, and then into surface and intermediate layers in the Arctic Ocean through the Barents Sea and the Fram Strait, but also partly recirculating south along the eastern coast of Greenland. In the North Atlantic Subpolar Seas, 129I is mainly found in dense overflow waters from the Nordic Seas being exported southwards in the Deep Western Boundary Current, and to a lesser extent in surface and intermediate layers circulating cycl- onically within the Subpolar Gyre. Observed concentration of 129I along a surface transect in the eastern Nordic Seas in 2001 is captured by the OGCM, while in the Nansen Basin of the Arctic Ocean the OGCM overestimates the observed values by a factor of two. The vertical profile of 129I in the Labrador Sea, repeatedly observed since 1997 to present, is fairly realistically reproduced by the OGCM. This indicates that the applied model system has potential for predicting the magnitude and depth of overflow waters from the Nordic Seas into the North Atlantic Subpolar Seas. To supplement the information obtained from the 129I distribution, we have conducted a number of idealized tracer experiments with the OGCM, including tracers mimicking pure water masses, and instantaneous pulse releases. New insight into time-scales of tracer transport in this region is obtained by utilizing a few

Refereed DesignationRefereed
Author Address


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