Artificial radionuclide tracer supply to the Denmark Strait overflow between 1972 and 1981

Livingston, HD, Swift JH, Ostlund HG.  1985.  Artificial radionuclide tracer supply to the Denmark Strait overflow between 1972 and 1981. Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans. 90:6971-6982.


Measurements of the concentrations of the artificial radionuclides 3H, 137Cs, and 90Sr in the northern Irminger Sea in 1972 and 1981 are reported. In both years, tracer measurements from this area included data from samples of the dense overflow water from the north through Denmark Strait. All three tracers were strongly correlated inversely with salinity in the dense outflows—the tracer maxima being related directly to the salinity minimum. When the tracer characteristics in the outflows in 1972 and 1981 were compared, concentrations of all in 1981 were observed to be about double the 1972 values. The individual tracer concentrations—on a decay-corrected, density-normalized basis—were higher in increasing order: 90Sr (+93%) < 3H (+115%) < 137Cs (+150%). The relatively greater increases for 3H and 137Cs were attributed to contributions of new sources of these tracers in northern surface waters: the 3H source is argued to derive from atmospheric hydrological recycling, whereas the 137Cs source is identified as the input to the Greenland and Iceland seas of advected European nuclear fuel reprocessing wastes. Both the tracer and hydrographic data are used to identify northern locations of intermediate water formation capable of supplying the observed dense overflow water characteristics. It is argued, from the time taken for the overflow water to reflect the new surface 137Cs source, that transport from the source to the overflow can be quite rapid (about 2 years).