Aggregates and their distributions determined from LOPC observations made using an autonomous profiling float Academic Article uri icon


  • The vertical flux of particles in the ocean drives the movement of organic carbon to the deep ocean. We have been studying the distribution and flux of these particles using the SOLOPC, a profiling Lagrangian (SOLO) float with a Laser Optical Particle Counter (LOPC). We have been able to distinguish between aggregate-like and zooplankton-like particles with diameters >2 mm but needed a way to separate the smaller particles into aggregates and zooplankton. Observations included a lognormal-shaped fraction in the normalized volume distribution similar to that observed in results for simulations of particles in the euphotic zone. By fitting a lognormal distribution to the volume spectrum of particles with diameters ≤2 mm, we have been successful at making a separation of marine snow material from other, presumably living, particles. The particle volumes derived using the separations are positively correlated with fluorescence, particulate organic carbon, and the volume of larger particles classified as aggregate-like, which supports the conclusion that these particles are truly aggregates, in some cases derived from phytoplankton. The residual volumes (total less the above fit) are highly correlated with the volumes of large, zooplankton-like particles. Downward velocities of the aggregate fraction calculated from time series of particle profiles are consistent with previous estimates of particle settling rates (20-70 m d -1). We now have a tool to estimate aggregate distributions, properties, and vertical fluxes in the euphotic zone, including when and where they change. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.

altmetric score

  • 0.25

author list (cited authors)

  • Petrik, C. M., Jackson, G. A., & Checkley, D. M.

citation count

  • 19

publication date

  • April 2013