An isotope dilution method for high-frequency measurements of dissolved inorganic carbon concentration in the surface ocean

Kuan Huang, Nicolas Cassar, Rik Wanninkhof, Michael Bender

Limnol. Oceanogr. Methods 11:572-583 (2013) | DOI: 10.4319/lom.2013.11.572

ABSTRACT: An autonomous system using isotope dilution as its core method has been developed to obtain high-frequency measurements of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) concentrations in the surface ocean. This system accurately mixes a seawater sample and a 13C-labeled sodium bicarbonate solution (spike). The mixed solution is then acidified and sent through a gas permeable membrane contactor. CO2 derived from DIC in the mixture is extracted by a CO2-free gas stream, and is sent to a cavity ring-down spectrometer to analyze its 13C/12C ratio. [DIC] of the seawater can then be derived from the measured 13C/12C, the known mixing ratio and the [DI13C] of the spike. The method has been tested under a wide [DIC] range (1800-2300 µmol/kg) in the laboratory. It has also been deployed on a cruise that surveyed ocean waters to the south of Florida. At a sampling resolution of 4 min (15 samples per hour), the relative standard deviation of DIC determined from the laboratory tests and the field deployment is ± 0.07% and ± 0.09%, respectively. The accuracy of the method is better than 0.1% except where [DIC] varies faster than 5 µmol/kg per minute. Based on the laboratory and field evaluations, we conclude that this method can provide accurate underway [DIC] measurements at high resolution in most oceanic regions.