||The purposes of this study are to understand the surface water distributions and vertical profiles of Ra-226 in the northern South China Sea (SCS), and to estimate the mean residence time of Pb-210 based on the extent of radioactive disequilibrium relative to Ra-226. Seawater samples of 20-liter size were collected during four Ocean Researcher I (ORI) cruises conducted in 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003 (Cruise 575 in March, Cruise 606 in April, Cruise 662 in October, and Cruise 688 in July) for Ra-226 measurements.|
Surface water Ra-226 in the study area varies between 10 and 16 dpm/100 kg with higher values at stations closer to the landmass of coastal China. The surface water Ra-226 distribution shows seasonal variation: the western Philippine Sea (WPS) surface water with low Ra-226 content enters the SCS and moves mainly northwestward in summer; this water shifts toward the center in autumn. Ra-226 profiles in the northern SCS generally show an increase from the surface toward the bottom, quite similar to that of the open ocean. However, Ra-226 is systematically higher in the northern SCS than in the western North Pacific above 1500m. This may be attributed to higher Ra-226 input from the vast area of the shelf and slope in the SCS. Below this depth, Ra-226 displays large variation in some of the profiles but the mean values are quite comparable to those of the western North Pacific at the corresponding depth. The deep water in the SCS basin probably derives its Ra from the underlying sediments similar to the case in open oceans.
The Pb-210/Ra-226 activity ratio in the study area ranges between 1.4 and 2.7 in the surface water with higher values at the stations closer to the Luzon Strait due to lower Ra-226 over there. The excess Pb-210 over Ra-226 in the surface water due to atmospheric input may penetrate to a depth of about 200 to 500m. Below this depth, Pb-210 becomes deficient because it is scavenged and removed by settling particulates. Below 1000m, the Pb-210/Ra-226 activity ratio varies around 0.7 to 0.5. Box model calculations within a mixed layer of 50m in the area yield a mean residence time of about 1 yr for Pb-210 if an atmospheric Pb-210 flux of 1.05 dpm/cm2/y is adopted. The activity ratio of about 0.5 to 0.7 in the deep water corresponds to a Pb-210 mean residence time of about 30 to 70 yrs with respect to particulate scavenging. These values are quite comparable to those determined from the Pacific deep water, suggesting that Pb-210 in the SCS deep water is scavenged and removed by sinking particulates at a rate similar to that in the deep open oceans.