Simulation of the mantle and crustal helium isotope signature in the Mediterranean Sea using a high-resolution regional circulation model
Abstract. Helium isotopes (3He, 4He) are useful tracers for investigating the deep ocean circulation and for evaluating ocean general circulation models, because helium is a stable and conservative nuclide that does not take part in any chemical or biological process. Helium in the ocean originates from three different sources, namely, (i) gas dissolution in equilibrium with atmospheric helium, (ii) helium-3 addition by radioactive decay of tritium (called tritiugenic helium), and (iii) injection of terrigenic helium-3 and helium-4 by the submarine volcanic activity which occurs mainly at plate boundaries, and also addition of (mainly) helium-4 from the crust and sedimentary cover by α-decay of uranium and thorium contained in various minerals.
We present the first simulation of the terrigenic helium isotope distribution in the whole Mediterranean Sea using a high-resolution model (NEMO-MED12). For this simulation we build a simple source function for terrigenic helium isotopes based on published estimates of terrestrial helium fluxes. We estimate a hydrothermal flux of 3.5 mol3 He yr−1 and a lower limit for the crustal flux at 1.6 × 10−7 4He mol m−2 yr−1.
In addition to providing constraints on helium isotope degassing fluxes in the Mediterranean, our simulations provide information on the ventilation of the deep Mediterranean waters which is useful for assessing NEMO-MED12 performance. This study is part of the work carried out to assess the robustness of the NEMO-MED12 model, which will be used to study the evolution of the climate and its effect on the biogeochemical cycles in the Mediterranean Sea, and to improve our ability to predict the future evolution of the Mediterranean Sea under the increasing anthropogenic pressure.