Different mechanisms of silicic acid leakage and their biogeochemical consequences

Katsumi Matsumoto, Zanna Chase, Karen Kohfeld

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


In the modern ocean, silicic acid is effectively trapped in the Southern Ocean. According to the silicic acid leakage hypothesis, a loosening of this trapping may have contributed to low atmospheric CO2 during glacial times. Using a model with dynamical feedbacks in ocean physics and biology, we explore three distinct mechanisms to loosen the trapping and trigger silicic acid leakage from the Southern Ocean: sea ice expansion, weaker winds, and iron addition. The basic idea of the iron addition mechanism was previously explored using a simple box model. Here we confirm the main results of the earlier work and demonstrate further that sea ice expansion and weaker southern westerlies can also trigger silicic acid leakage. The three mechanisms are not mutually exclusive, and their biogeochemical consequences are dissimilar in terms of the spatial patterns of Si:N uptake and the relative changes in opal and particulate organic carbon fluxes both in and outside the Southern Ocean. While it is not entirely clear how sea ice, winds, and iron deposition were different during the last glacial period compared to today, we examine the synergistic effects of these three triggers in one simulation. In this simulation, the combination of sea ice and iron reproduces the north-south dipole of productivity recorded in export production proxies, but effects of the iron perturbation seem to dominate the overall biogeochemical response.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)238-254
Number of pages17
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2014


  • Southern Ocean
  • carbon cycle
  • glacial
  • numerical model
  • production
  • silicic acid


Dive into the research topics of 'Different mechanisms of silicic acid leakage and their biogeochemical consequences'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this