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Age Constraints on Gulf of Mexico Deep Water Ventilation as Determined by 14C Measurements

  • Piers Chapman (a1), Steven F DiMarco (a1), Robert M Key (a2), Connie Previti (a1) and Shari Yvon-Lewis (a1)...

While the exchange of water through Yucatan Strait is reasonably well known, the age of the deep water in both the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico is not. We recently measured the radiocarbon (14C) concentrations in deep water in the Gulf of Mexico from a line of stations along 90°30′W. The mean apparent age of water below 900 m, the depth of the Florida Strait sill, was found to be about 740 yr relative to the 1950 14C standard. Depending on how the corrections for biological activity in the upper water are applied, this converts to a “true” age of between 231 ± 28 and 293 ± 74 yr. These ages agree with a previous estimate of the age of the deep water in the Gulf of Mexico based on heat flows, put upper limits on the age of the deep water in the Caribbean Sea, and provide constraints on modelers for the return of deep water from the Gulf of Mexico to the Caribbean. This might be important in the event of a future deep water oil or other chemical spill in the region.

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