Articles | Volume 6, issue 1
26 Mar 2010
 | 26 Mar 2010

Modeling the effects of size on patch dynamics of an inert tracer

P. Xiu and F. Chai

Abstract. Mesoscale iron enrichment experiments have revealed that additional iron affects the phytoplankton productivity and carbon cycle. However, the role of initial size of fertilized patch in determining the patch evolution is poorly quantified due to the limited observational capability and complex of physical processes. Using a three-dimensional ocean circulation model, we simulated different sizes of inert tracer patches that were only regulated by physical circulation and diffusion. Model results showed that during the first few days since release of inert tracer, the calculated dilution rate was found to be a linear function with time, which was sensitive to the initial patch size with steeper slope for smaller size patch. After the initial phase of rapid decay, the relationship between dilution rate and time became an exponential function, which was also size dependent. Therefore, larger initial size patches can usually last longer and ultimately affect biogeochemical processes much stronger than smaller patches.