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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Global estimates of mineral dust aerosol iron and aluminum solubility that account for particle size using diffusion-controlled and surface-area-controlled approximations


Mineral aerosol deposition is recognized as the dominant source of iron to the open ocean and the solubility of iron in the dust aerosol is highly variable, with measurements ranging from 0.01-80%. Global models have difficulty capturing the observed variations in solubility, and have ignored the solubility dependence on aerosol size. We introduce two idealized physical models to estimate the size dependence of mineral aerosol solubility: a diffusion-controlled model and a surface-area-controlled model. These models produce differing time- and space-varying solubility maps for aerosol Fe and Al given the dust age at deposition, size-resolved dust entrainment fields, and the aerosol acidity. The resulting soluble iron deposition fluxes are substantially different, and more realistic, than a globally uniform solubility approximation. The surface-area-controlled solubility varies more than the diffusion-controlled solubility and better captures the spatial pattern of observed solubility in the Atlantic. However, neither of these two models explains the large solubility variation observed in the Pacific. We then examine the impacts of spatially variable, size-dependent solubility on marine biogeochemistry with the Biogeochemical Elemental Cycling (BEC) ocean model by comparing the modeled surface ocean dissolved Fe and Al with observations. The diffusion-based variable solubility does not significantly improve the simulation of dissolved Fe relative to a 5% globally uniform solubility, while the surface-area-based variable solubility improves the simulation in the North Atlantic but worsens it in the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

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