The source of whitings on the Great Bahama Bank and their relationship to major changes in the chemistry of Bank waters have been among the longest and most hotly debated topics in carbonate geochemistry. In this paper, we demonstrate that the reaction kinetics of calcite with Bank waters for a given saturation state are similar to, but somewhat slower (2 to 3 times) than with Gulf Stream water. The interpretation of the reaction kinetics of suspended Bank sediment with Bank water requires that the precipitating phase be about twice as soluble as aragonite. Good agreement at equivalent saturation states was found between experimental precipitation rates and those calculated for the rate of change of Bank water chemistry in the region of whitings. These results indicate that the dominant mode of carbonate removal is via precipitation on resuspended sediments rather than the rapid pseudo-homogeneous precipitation of calcium carbonate in the water column resulting in the formation of a whiting. Estimates indicate that single aragonite needles may be resuspended many times over a period of decades during which they experience repeated overgrowth. A major portion (>98%) of suspended calcium carbonate is outside the visually dramatic whitings. Thus, as visually spectacular as they are, whitings do not represent a short-term locally massive precipitation of carbonate on the Great Bahama Bank, nor are they even likely to be the dominant sites of carbonate removal in this region. Although future refinements are needed that include seafloor processes, we have at this point arrived at a mechanistic kinetic model that provides a reasonably quantitative explanation for the hydrochemistry of the carbonate system on the northern Great Bahama Bank.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geochemistry and Petrology