Seawater Pb concentration and isotopic composition response to daily time scale dust storms in the Gulf of Aqaba, Red Sea

Tal Benaltabet*, Gil Lapid, Adi Torfstein

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Lead (Pb) is a primary tracer of natural and anthropogenic processes in the marine environment, with atmospheric deposition being one of its main sources to open ocean surface waters. However, the impact of short-term (daily) dust storms on the oceanic water column is poorly constrained due to the typically low sampling temporal resolution in deep open ocean settings. The Gulf of Aqaba (GoA), northern Red Sea, is a deep oligotrophic water body surrounded by hyper-arid deserts with no major tributaries, and hence its surface waters receive limited terrigenous input, except from settling atmospheric dust particles. The GoA is highly accessible and therefore provides the opportunity to study the dynamics of seawater Pb chemistry across abrupt and short periods of enhanced atmospheric deposition. Here, we report a highly resolved time series of vertical profiles of dissolved Pb concentrations and isotopic compositions across daily-timescale dust storm events that occurred during 2018. GoA Pb concentrations range between 19 and 85 pmol kg−1, and the isotopic compositions of 206Pb/207Pb and 208Pb/206Pb are in the range of 1.163–1.190 and 2.062–2.093, respectively. These compositions reflect a mixture of multiple end members: seafloor sediments and open Red Sea waters, which modulate the long-term deep-water composition of GoA Pb, and settling aerosols, which shift the seawater composition towards anthropogenic values. The results show that dust storms impose strong perturbations of seawater compositions towards the anthropogenic aerosols end member, inducing increases of up to 54% in the Pb inventory in the upper water column. We propose a short-term dissolution-scavenging mechanism, whereby upon dust-seawater impact, the majority of the aerosol's soluble anthropogenic phases rapidly dissolve. The peak in the aerosol derived isotopic shift in the mixed layer is reached after 3–4 days. Simultaneously, Pb is re-adsorbed onto the sinking dust mineral particulates. Post dust storm Pb leaching and scavenging rates are modeled, yielding quantitative constraints on the connection between increasing dust loads and seawater Pb concentrations and isotopic compositions. Our findings demonstrate the short-term variable Pb response to dust storms and should be applied when interpreting open ocean surface water Pb patterns.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number103895
JournalMarine Chemistry
StatePublished - 20 Dec 2020

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© 2020 Elsevier B.V.


  • Oligotrophic seawater
  • Pb isotopes


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