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Publication Date
13 October 2020

Modeling Functional Organic Chemistry in Arctic Rivers: An Idealized Siberian System



Rivers of the Arctic will become ever more important for the global climate, since they carry a majority of continental dissolved organic carbon flux into the rapidly changing polar ocean. Aqueous organics comprise a wide array of functional groups, several of which are likely to impact coastal and open water biophysical properties. Light attenuation, interfacial films, aerosol formation, gas release and momentum exchange can all be cited. We performed Lagrangian kinetic modeling for the evolution of riverine organic chemistry as the molecules in question make their way from the highlands to Arctic outlets. Classes as diverse as the proteins, sugars, lipids, re-condensates, humics, bio-tracers and small volatiles are all included. Our reduced framework constitutes an idealized northward flow driving a major hydrological discharge rate and primarily representing the Russian Lena. Mountainous, high solute and tundra sources are all simulated, and they meet up at several points between soil and delta process reactors. Turnover rates are parameterized beginning with extrapolated coastal values imposed along a limited tributary network, with connections between different terrestrial sub-ecologies. Temporal variation of our total dissolved matter most closely resembles the observations when we focus on the restricted removal and low initial carbon loads, suggesting relatively slow transformation along the water course. Thus, channel combinations and mixing must play a dominant role. Nevertheless, microbial and photochemical losses help determine the final concentrations for most species. Chemical evolution is distinct for the various functionalities, with special contributions from pre- and post-reactivity in soil and delta waters. Several functions are combined linearly to represent the collective chromophoric dissolved matter, characterized here by its absorption. Tributaries carry the signature of lignin phenols to segregate tundra versus taiga sources, and special attention is paid to the early then marine behaviors of low molecular weight volatiles. Heteropolycondensates comprise the largest percentage of reactive carbon in our simulations due to recombination/accumulation, and they tend to be preeminent at the mouth. Outlet concentrations of individual structures such as amino acids and absorbers lie above threshold values for biophysical influence, on the monolayer and light attenuation. The extent of coastal spreading is examined through targeted regional box modeling, relying on salinity and color for calibration. In some cases, plumes reach the scale of peripheral arctic seas, and amplification is expected during upcoming decades. Conclusions are mapped from the Lena to other boreal discharges, and future research questions are outlined regarding the bonding type versus mass release as permafrost degrades. Dynamic aqueous organic coupling is recommended for polar system models, from headwaters to coastal diluent. 

“Modeling Functional Organic Chemistry In Arctic Rivers: An Idealized Siberian System”. 2020. Atmosphere 11. doi:10.3390/atmos11101090.
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