Spatial inhomogeneities in the sedimentation of biogenic particles in ocean flows: analysis in the Benguela region

Monroy, Pedro; Drotos, Gabor; Hernandez-Garcia, Emilio; Lopez, Cristobal
Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans 124, 4744--4762 (2019)

Sedimentation of particles in the ocean leads to inhomogeneous horizontal distributions at depth, even if the release process is homogeneous. We study this phenomenon considering a horizontal sheet of sinking particles immersed in an oceanic flow, and determine how the particles are distributed when they sediment on the seabed (or are collected at a given depth). The study is performed from a Lagrangian viewpoint attending to the properties of the oceanic flow and the physical characteristics (size and density) of typical biogenic sinking particles. Two main processes determine the distribution, the stretching of the sheet caused by the flow and its projection on the surface where particles accumulate. These mechanisms are checked, besides an analysis of their relative importance to produce inhomogeneities, with numerical experiments in the Benguela region. Faster (heavier or larger) sinking particles distribute more homogeneously than slower ones.

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