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June 14, 2019

Tracing and constraining anthropogenic aerosol iron fluxes to the North Atlantic Ocean using iron isotopes

Publisher: Nature Communications

Funders: National Science Foundation, State of Florida, University of South Florida (USF)

Authors: Ana M. Aguilar-Islas, Douglas S. Hamilton, Natalie M. Mahowald, Rachel U. Shelley, Tim M. Conway, William M. Landing

Language: English

Atmospheric dust is an important source of the micronutrient Fe to the oceans. Although relatively insoluble mineral Fe is assumed to be the most important component of dust, a relatively small yet highly soluble anthropogenic component may also be significant. However, quantifying the importance of anthropogenic Fe to the global oceans requires a tracer which can be used to identify and constrain anthropogenic aerosols in situ. Here, we present Fe isotope (δ56Fe) data from North Atlantic aerosol samples from the GEOTRACES GA03 section. While soluble aerosol samples collected near the Sahara have near-crustal δ56Fe, soluble aerosols from near North America and Europe instead have remarkably fractionated δ56Fe values (as light as −1.6‰). Here, we use these observations to fingerprint anthropogenic combustion sources, and to refine aerosol deposition modeling. We show that soluble anthropogenic aerosol Fe flux to the global surface oceans is highly likely to be underestimated, even in the dusty North Atlantic.