Marine Science Faculty Publications

Controls on Temporal Variability of the Geochemistry of the Deep Cariaco Basin

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Anoxic basin, Cariaco Basin, Caribbean Sea, Hydrogen sulfide Regional Index Terms, Intrusion, Oxic-anoxic interface, Temporal variability, Venezuela

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Studies of the Cariaco Basin on the continental shelf of Venezuela, as a part of the Carbon Retention In A Colored Ocean (CARIACO) program, have revealed that the chemistry of the deeper waters of the system is more variable than previously believed. Small oxygen maxima have been observed on a number of occasions at depths where oxygen was previously absent, suggesting the occurrence of intrusions of oxygenated water into the region of the oxic/anoxic interface (250-300m). Apparently because of these events, the oxic/anoxic interface deepened by about 100m during the period of our observations. We also observed a dramatic decrease in H2S concentrations at all depths below the oxic/anoxic interface during this same period. Bottom waters, for example, had an H2S concentration of about 75 μM in November 1995, but since November 1997, concentrations in bottom water have not exceeded 55 μM. Water of sufficient density to sink to the bottom of the Basin has been observed on one occasion at sill depth just north of the eastern sill. However, based on a simple box model, the decrease in deep-water sulfide does not appear to be due to intrusion of oxygenated water alone, as concentrations of other measured species, and of hydrographic parameters, have remained constant with time. Instead, we postulate that an earthquake that took place in July 1997 resulted in a turbidity current that transported large quantities of coastal sediment containing oxidized iron into the deep waters of the basin. If the final products of reaction were elemental sulfur and iron sulfide, the sediment associated with the oxidized iron would have produced a turbidite layer about 10 cm thick. Previous earthquakes have produced turbidites of similar thickness.

Citation / Publisher Attribution

Deep-Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers, v. 48, issue 7, p. 1605-1625