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Understanding upper water mass dynamics in the Gulf of Mexico by linking physical and biogeochemical features

Citation: Cervantes-Díaz, G. Y., Hernández-Ayón, J. M., Zirino, A., Herzka, S. Z., Camacho-Ibar, V., Norzagaray, O., … & Delgado, J. A. (2022). Understanding upper water mass dynamics in the Gulf of Mexico by linking physical and biogeochemical features. Journal of Marine Systems, 225, 103647.

In the Gulf of Mexico (GoM), the upper 300 m of the water column contains a mixture of water types derived from water masses from the North Atlantic and the Caribbean Sea, namely Caribbean Surface Water (CSW), Subtropical Underwater (SUW), Gulf Common Water (GCW), and Tropical Atlantic Central Water (TACW). These are mainly altered by mesoscale processes and local evaporation, which modulate biogeochemical cycles. In this study, we improve our understanding of water mass dynamics by including biogeochemical data when evaluating the T-S relationship to define water-mass boundaries, particularly when the observed thermohaline characteristics overlap. The variables considered were apparent oxygen utilization (AOU), nitrate, and dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC). The data were obtained from eight cruises carried out in the central and southern regions of the GoM and an additional cruise that covered the entire coastal-ocean region. The new proposed boundaries were instrumental in clarifying the dynamics of surface waters. Of note, GCW on the western side of the GoM is not formed from the mixing of CSW and SUW but by the mixing of remnant CSW with TACW. In winter, a remnant of CSW mixed with GCW, and the biogeochemical composition of surface waters was affected, as observed from an increase in nitrate and DIC concentrations and positive AOU values. CSW was mainly detected at the surface during summer with negative AOU values, low DIC values, and almost undetectable nitrate concentrations. The presence or absence of CSW modulated the depth of the nitracline and likely influenced primary productivity.

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The NOAA Ocean Acidification Program (OAP) works to prepare society to adapt to the consequences of ocean acidification and conserve marine ecosystems as acidification occurs. Learn more about the human connections and adaptation strategies from these efforts.

Adaptation approaches fostered by the OAP include:


Using models and research to understand the sensitivity of organisms and ecosystems to ocean acidification to make predictions about the future, allowing communities and industries to prepare


Using these models and predictions as tools to facilitate management strategies that will protect marine resources and communities from future changes


Developing innovative tools to help monitor ocean acidification and mitigate changing ocean chemistry locally


On the Road

Drive fuel-efficient vehicles or choose public transportation. Choose your bike or walk! Don't sit idle for more than 30 seconds. Keep your tires properly inflated.

With your Food Choices

Eat local- this helps cut down on production and transport! Reduce your meat and dairy. Compost to avoid food waste ending up in the landfill

With your Food Choices

Make energy-efficient choices for your appliances and lighting. Heat and cool efficiently! Change your air filters and program your thermostat, seal and insulate your home, and support clean energy sources

By Reducing Coastal Acidification

Reduce your use of fertilizers, Improve sewage treatment and run off, and Protect and restore coastal habitats

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You've taken the first step to learn more about ocean acidification - why not spread this knowledge to your community?

Every community has their unique culture, economy and ecology and what’s at stake from ocean acidification may be different depending on where you live.  As a community member, you can take a larger role in educating the public about ocean acidification. Creating awareness is the first step to taking action.  As communities gain traction, neighboring regions that share marine resources can build larger coalitions to address ocean acidification.  Here are some ideas to get started:

  1. Work with informal educators, such as aquarium outreach programs and local non-profits, to teach the public about ocean acidification. Visit our Education & Outreach page to find the newest tools!
  2. Participate in habitat restoration efforts to restore habitats that help mitigate the effects of coastal acidification
  3. Facilitate conversations with local businesses that might be affected by ocean acidification, building a plan for the future.
  4. Partner with local community efforts to mitigate the driver behind ocean acidification  – excess CO2 – such as community supported agriculture, bike & car shares and other public transportation options.
  5. Contact your regional Coastal Acidification Network (CAN) to learn how OA is affecting your region and more ideas about how you can get involved in your community
       More for Taking Community Action