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Impact of Saharan dust events on radionuclides in the atmosphere, seawater, and sediments of the northwest Mediterranean Sea

AuthorsPham, M. K.; Chamizo, Elena CSIC ORCID; López-Lora, Mercedes; Martín, Jacobo CSIC ORCID; Osvath, Iolanda; Povinec, Pavel P.
NW mediterranean
Monaco air
Water column
Pu isotopes
Issue Date2020
CitationJournal of Environmental Radioactivity 214–215: 106157 (2020)
AbstractIn February 2004, anthropogenic radionuclides (137Cs, 236U, 239Pu and 240Pu), transported from the Sahara Desert, were observed in the Monaco air, and later in water and sediment samples collected at the DYFAMED site in the northwest (NW) Mediterranean Sea. While 236U and 137Cs in Saharan dust particles showed a high solubility in seawater, Pu isotopes were particle reactive in the water column and in the sediment. The impact of the Saharan deposition was found at 0–1.0 cm of the sediment core for 236U and 137Cs, and between 1.0 and 1.5 cm for Pu isotopes. The excess of 236U was observed more in the water column than in the sediment, whereas the 239+240Pu total inventories were comparable in the water column and the sediment. This single-day particle event represented 72% of annual atmospheric deposition in Monaco. At the DYFAMED site, it accounted for 10% (137Cs) and 15% (239+240Pu) activities of sinking particles during the period of the highest mass flux collected at the 200 and 1000 m water depths, and for a significant proportion of the total annual atmospheric input to the NW Mediterranean Sea (28–37% for 137Cs and 34–45% for 239+240Pu). Contributions to the total 137Cs and 239+240Pu sediment inventories were estimated to be 14% and 8%, respectively. The Saharan dust deposition phenomenon (atmospheric input, water column and sediment) offered a unique case to study origin and accumulation rates of radionuclides in the NW Mediterranean Sea.
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