Articles | Volume 5, issue 1
25 Jan 2008
 | 25 Jan 2008

On the treatment of particulate organic matter sinking in large-scale models of marine biogeochemical cycles

I. Kriest and A. Oschlies

Abstract. Various functions have been suggested and applied to represent the sedimentation and remineralisation of particulate organic matter (POM) in numerical ocean models. Here we investigate some representations commonly used in large-scale biogeochemical models: a constant sinking speed, a sinking speed increasing with depth, a spectrum of particles with different size and different size-dependent sinking velocities, and a model that assumes a power law particle size distribution everywhere in the water column. The analysis is carried out for an idealised one-dimensional water column, under stationary boundary conditions for surface POM. It focuses on the intrinsic assumptions of the respective sedimentation function and their effect on POM mass, mass flux, and remineralisation profiles.

A constant and uniform sinking speed does not appear appropriate for simulations exceeding a few decades, as the sedimentation profile is not consistent with observed profiles. A spectrum of size classes, together with size-dependent sinking and constant remineralisation, causes the sinking speed of total POM to increase with depth. This increase is not strictly linear with depth. Its particular form will further depend on the size distribution of the POM ensemble at the surface. Assuming a power law particle size spectrum at the surface, this model results in unimodal size distributions in the ocean interior. For the size-dependent sinking model, we present an analytic integral over depth and size that can explain regional variations of remineralisation length scales in response to regional patterns in trophodynamic state.

Final-revised paper