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The University of Southampton
Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton

Research project: Aluminium distributions in the Atlantic Ocean

Currently Active: 

Aluminium (Al) is the most commonly used tracer to estimate atmospheric dust deposition in the open ocean, however other tracers (such as Ti and 232Th - 230Th) have recently shown to complement these estimates. This is important where oceanic primary production (and therefore carbon drawdown) relies on the availability of Fe and other trace metals (such as Zn, Cd, etc.), which are partly delivered through atmospheric transports.

Schematic of dust transport and nutrient delivery to the surface ocean
Dust transport

Analytical procedure

  • Dissolved aluminium (dAl) via shipboard measurements using flow injection analyses (FIA) in a class 100 clean container-lab.
  • Total aluminium (TAl) measurements using FIA at NOCS labs after >6 months storage of acidified samples.


Aluminium sampling positions in the Atlantic ocean

Sampling areas

  • IBIS, D350, D351 & D354; High Latitude North Atlantic, vertical and surface seawater samples.
  • GA06, D361, 2011 UK GEOTRACES cruise; tropical Atlantic, high resolution vertical and surface seawater samples.
  • GA10, D357 & JC68, 2012-1012 UK GEOTRACES cruises; 40oS Atlantic transect, high resolution vertical and surface seawater.

Tropical Atlantic

Large amounts of dust are transported from the Saharan desert and deposited in surface water of the tropical Atlantic Ocean, leading to dAL concentrations of >65 mN. Concentrations are <10 nM at subsurface and range up to 20 nM and depth. Antarctic water masses travelling northwards carry signals of low Al concentrations  (<5 nM).

40°S transect

This area is characteristic for receiving very low dust inputs and therefore surface dAl concentrations predominantly range from below detection limit (~0.03 nM) to ~1.5 nM and at depth dAl is up to ~8 nM. Approaching the Argentine shelf, surface and deep dAl concentrations increase significantly due to inputs from the Rio Plata Estuary.

Key Contacts

Miss Jessica Klar (Postgraduate research student)

Prof Eric Achterberg (Project supervisor)

PhDs and Other Opportunities


Associated research themes

Past Present and Future Environmental Change

Environmental Geochemistry and Radioactivity

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