Distribution of 236U in the U.S. GEOTRACES Eastern Pacific Zonal Transect and its use as a water mass tracer

Document Type

Journal Article


Elsevier B.V.


School of Science / Centre for Marine Ecosystems Research


Funding information available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chemgeo.2019.04.003


Originally published as: Villa-Alfageme, M., Chamizo, E., Kenna, T. C., López-Lora, M., Casacuberta, N., Chang, C., ... Christl, M. (2019). Distribution of 236U in the US GEOTRACES Eastern Pacific Zonal Transect and its use as a water mass tracer. Chemical Geology, 517, 44-57. Original publication available here


We report dissolved concentrations of the long-lived radioisotope 236U measured in the water column along the 2013 US GEOTRACES Eastern Pacific Zonal Transect (GP16). This transect followed a 10–15°S line from Manta, Ecuador, to Papeete, Haiti, French Polynesia, crossing the southern East Pacific Rise, intercepting one of the largest hydrothermal plumes as well as a productivity gradient, which includes the upwelling zone and associated low oxygen waters offshore from Peru and the oligotrophic sub-tropical gyre. Accelerator Mass Spectrometry was used to measure dissolved seawater 236U concentrations as low as 1 × 103 atom kg−1, which are among the lowest levels reported to date. Differences in upper water column 236U distributions from east to west are a result of variable contributions from different surface and intermediate waters encountered along the transect.

The distribution of 236U, both in depth and geographically, provides complementary information to that obtained from Δ14C and helium isotopes, demonstrating that 236U concentrations are diagnostic in the identification of and contributions from the different deep and bottom water masses encountered along the EPZT (Jenkins et al., 2017). For example, we observe minimum 236U concentrations along the EPZT between 2000 and 3000 m that are consistent with contributions attributed to Pacific Deep Water. We also observe increases in 236U below 3000 m at the eastern and western termini of the EPZT. This is consistent with contributions associated with Antarctic Bottom Water and Lower Circumpolar Deep Water. Our results indicate that 236U may be used in conjunction with Δ14C and 3He isotopes as an additional tool with which to identify and resolve contributions from different water masses in the Pacific Ocean.

This article is part of a special issue entitled: “Cycles of trace elements and isotopes in the ocean – GEOTRACES and beyond” - edited by Tim M. Conway, Tristan Horner, Yves Plancherel, and Aridane G. González.