Articles | Volume 8, issue 1
Research article
04 Jan 2012
Research article |  | 04 Jan 2012

Using dissolved oxygen concentrations to determine mixed layer depths in the Bellingshausen Sea

K. Castro-Morales and J. Kaiser

Abstract. Concentrations of oxygen (O2) and other dissolved gases in the oceanic mixed layer are often used to calculate air-sea gas exchange fluxes. The mixed layer depth (zmix) may be defined using criteria based on temperature or density differences to a reference depth near the ocean surface. However, temperature criteria fail in regions with strong haloclines such as the Southern Ocean where heat, freshwater and momentum fluxes interact to establish mixed layers. Moreover, the time scales of air-sea exchange differ for gases and heat, so that zmix defined using oxygen may be different than zmix defined using temperature or density. Here, we propose to define an O2-based mixed layer depth, zmix(O2), as the depth where the relative difference between the O2 concentration and a reference value at a depth equivalent to 10 dbar equals 0.5 %. This definition was established by analysis of O2 profiles from the Bellingshausen Sea (west of the Antarctic Peninsula) and corroborated by visual inspection. Comparisons of zmix(O2) with zmix based on potential temperature differences, i.e., zmix(0.2 °C) and zmix(0.5 °C), and potential density differences, i.e., zmix(0.03 kg m−3) and zmix(0.125 kg m−3), showed that zmix(O2) closely follows zmix(0.03 kg m−3). Further comparisons with published zmix climatologies and zmix derived from World Ocean Atlas 2005 data were also performed. To establish zmix for use with biological production estimates in the absence of O2 profiles, we suggest using zmix(0.03 kg m−3), which is also the basis for the climatology by de Boyer Montégut et al. (2004).