The circumpolar Subantarctic Zone (SAZ) is a globally significant region of water mass formation and carbon dioxide uptake from the atmosphere.
Here we synthesise the results of nine voyages over 8 years to describe the seasonal variation in mixed layer properties in the SAZ south of Australia for comparison with biogeochemical process studies carried out in late summer (March 1998) as part of the ... SAZ Project. Winter mixing extends to depths greater than 400 m, resulting in the formation of Subantarctic Mode Water. In summer the mixed layer shoals to 75-100 m, depths which are still sufficiently deep that phytoplankton growth may be light limited. Nitrate and phosphate concentrations are reduced in summer( e.g., nitrate decreases from greater than 15 to less than 5/ micro mol kg- 1) but remain well above limiting levels.
Silicate in contrast, is low throughout the year (4/micro mol kg- 1 in winter and less than 2 / micro mol kg- 1 in summer). Water mass properties along a north-south hydrographic section in March 1998 suggest that near-surface waters spread from south to north across the Subantarctic Front (SAF), supplying cool, fresh, nutrient-rich water to the SAZ. As a consequence, the properties of the southern SAZ differ from those farther north: the mixed layer in the south is cooler, fresher, deeper, higher in nutrients, and bounded below by a halocline (rather than by a seasonal thermocline, as in the northern SAZ). The contrast between the northern and southern SAZ persists throughout the year, suggesting the cross-front exchange occurs year-round and likely contributes to the differences in seasonal thermal amplitude and algal biomass accumulation seen in satellite images. Density-compensated horizontal gradients of temperature and salinity are common in the mixed layer of the SAZ and the northern SAF, consistent with the hypothesis that the vigour of lateral mixing in the mixed layer is a strong function of the magnitude of the lateral density gradient.
CTD Data are available for access via the provided URL. Data from the following voyages of the Aurora Australis were used:
1991-1992 Voyage 1
1992-1993 Voyage 9
1994-1995 Voyage 4
1994-1995 Voyage 7
1995-1996 Voyage 1
1996-1997 Voyage 1
1997-1998 Voyage 6