Vertical mixing alleviates autumnal oxygen deficiency in the central North Sea

Charlotte A. J. Williams, Tom Hull, Jan Kaiser, Claire Mahaffey, Naomi Greenwood, Matt Toberman, Matthew R. Palmer

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There is an immediate need to better understand and monitor shelf sea dissolved oxygen (O2) concentrations. Here we use high-resolution glider observations of turbulence and O2 concentrations to directly estimate the vertical O2 flux into the bottom mixed layer (BML) immediately before the autumn breakdown of stratification in a seasonally stratified shelf sea. We present a novel method to resolve the oxycline across sharp gradients due to slow optode response time and optode positioning in a flow "shadow zone"on Slocum gliders. The vertical O2 flux to the low-O2 BML was found to be between 2.5 to 6.4 mmol m-2 d-1. Episodic intense mixing events were responsible for the majority (up to 90 %) of this oxygen supply despite making up 40 % of the observations. Without these intense mixing events, BML O2 concentrations would approach ecologically concerning levels by the end of the stratified period. Understanding the driving forces behind episodic mixing and how these may change under future climate scenarios and renewable energy infrastructure is key for monitoring shelf sea health.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1961-1971
Number of pages11
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 17 Apr 2024


  • Atlantic Ocean
  • North Sea
  • autumn
  • concentration (composition)
  • dissolved gas
  • oxygen
  • seasonal variation
  • shelf sea


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