Shipboard measurements of atmospheric oxygen using a vacuum-ultraviolet absorption technique

Stephens, BB, Keeling RF, Paplawsky WJ.  2003.  Shipboard measurements of atmospheric oxygen using a vacuum-ultraviolet absorption technique. Tellus Series B-Chemical and Physical Meteorology. 55:857-878.

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co2, global carbon-cycle, mean annual cycle, models, o-2 concentration, o-2/n-2, ocean, ratio, southern-hemisphere air, variability, water


We have developed an instrument for making continuous, field-based, part-per-million (ppm) level measurements of atmospheric oxygen concentration, and have implemented it on research cruises in the equatorial Pacific and Southern Oceans. The instrument detects changes in oxygen by the absorption of vacuum ultraviolet (VUV) radiation as it passes through a flowing gas stream, and has a precision comparable to existing laboratory techniques. Here we describe the VUV instrument and present atmospheric O-2 and CO2 data collected from the NOAA ship Ka' imimoana in the equatorial Pacific during April and May of 1998, and from the NSF ship Lawrence M. Gould in the Southern Ocean during October 1998. These data represent the first field-based measurements of atmospheric O-2, and significant additions to the O-2 datasets in these regions. Our boreal-springtime equatorial measurements reveal significant short-term variations in atmospheric O-2, resulting from variations in atmospheric mixing relative to the strong interhemispheric gradient. Our austral-springtime Southern Ocean observations confirm the low O-2 concentrations seen in flask samples from this region, allow the separate identification of oceanic and industrial influences on CO2, and provide evidence of a Southern Ocean source for CO2 at this time of year. These shipboard VUV observations do not provide any evidence to support coupled ocean-atmosphere model predictions of a large decreasing atmospheric O-2 gradient between equatorial and high-southern latitudes.