Unusual features of the distribution of Radon-222 in the bottom waters of the continental slope of the Mid-Atlantic Bight: Hydrodynamic implications

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Progress in Oceanography
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Rn-222 was measured in the near-bottom waters of the continental slope of the Mid-Atlantic Bight. Separate measurements of the Rn-222 supported by dissolved Ra-226 allowed the excess Rn-222 that is derived from the underlying sediments to be distinguished. Measurements of production of Rn-222 by the sediments were used to calculate fluxes of Rn-222 from sediments that would be expected as a result of molecular diffusion. On the upper slope and on the lower slope excess Rn-222 standing crops were, respectively, greater than and consistent with fluxes of radon from sediments by molecular diffusion as are typical of most ocean environments. On the middle slope, however, observed excess Rn-222 concentrations and standing crops were significantly lower than what would be expected from the calculated fluxes from the underlying sediments. This unusual feature of low radon concentrations on the middle slope is referred to as the low-radon zone (LRZ). This LRZ was always present over several years and seasons, but was variable in intensity (excess-radon concentration and standing crop) and in location on the slope. Low concentrations of suspended particulate matter and low current velocities observed by others in the same region are consistent with low mixing as a possible cause of the LRZ. Radon profile shapes and recent work by others on near bottom mixing due to interactions between topography and internal waves, however, suggest that high mixing due to internal waves is a more likely cause of the LRZ. (C) 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


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DOI 10.1016/j.pocean.2006.03.016