Turning Sour, Bloated, and Out of Breath: Ocean Chemistry under Global Warming

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A Frontiers in Science Lecture to celebrate 2019, the International Year of the Periodic Table

In 1997, the Japanese oceanographer Yoshiyuki Nozaki compiled a periodic table of ocean chemistry, encapsulating the distribution of elements as a function of depth. In this periodic table, many elements share similar patterns, classified into just a few categories. The similarities indicate a common set of mechanisms behind the ocean cycling of elements.

The interaction of ocean circulation, chemistry, and biology sets the distribution of elements in the ocean. For example, nonreactive elements are nearly uniformly distributed in the water column, homogenized by ocean circulation and mixing.

Nutrient elements are depleted near the surface because of biological consumption and enriched in mid-depth due to decomposition of organic matter. Some trace metals – such as Fe, Zn, Ni, and Cd – follow this pattern. In contrast, some heavy metals – like Al, Mn, Co, and Pb – are subsumed into particles and removed from seawater.

Building on the insights from Nozaki’s periodic table, this talk will interpret recent measurements of changing seawater chemistry, highlighting the importance of rising carbon dioxide concentration in the air, climate change, and pollution of rivers and atmosphere.

About the Speaker
Takamitsu “Taka” Ito is an associate professor in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, where he teaches physical and chemical oceanography. He received a Ph.D. in Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences in 2005 from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His research has focused on the cycling of carbon, oxygen, and iron in the global oceans, using observations, theory, and computational modeling. 

About Frontiers in Science Lectures
Lectures in this series are intended to inform, engage, and inspire students, faculty, staff, and the public on developments, breakthroughs, and topics of general interest in the sciences and mathematics. Lecturers tailor their talks for nonexpert audiences.

About the Periodic Table Frontiers in Science Lecture Series
Throughout 2019, the College of Sciences will bring prominent researchers from Georgia Tech and beyond to expound on little-discussed aspects of chemical elements:

  • Feb. 6, James Sowell, How the Universe Made the Elements in the Periodic Table
  • March 5, Michael Filler, Celebrating Silicon: Its Success, Hidden History, and Next Act
  • April 2, John Baez, University of California, Riverside, Mathematical Mysteries of the Periodic Table 
  • April 18, Sam Kean, Author, The Periodic Table: A Treasure Trove of Passion, Adventure, Betrayal, and Obsession 
  • Sept. 12, Monica Halka, The Elusive End of the Periodic Table: Why Chase It?
  • October 15, David Clark, Plutonium Chemistry and the Battlefields of the Cold War 
  • October 31, Taka Ito, Turning Sour, Bloated, and Out of Breath: Ocean Chemistry under Global Warming 
  • Nov. 12, Margaret Kosal, The Geopolitics of Rare and Not-So-Rare Elements
Closest public parking for the Oct. 31 lecture is Area 6 (Fifth Street and Spring) or Area 8 (Tech Square) on the parking map, https://pts.gatech.edu/visitors#l3.
Refreshments are served, and periodic table t-shirts are raffled, at each lecture.


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