Observations of CFCs and SF 6 as ocean tracers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


An advantage of using chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and sulfur hexafluoride (SF 6) as tracers of ocean circulation is that the time-dependent source functions permit calculation of rates for ocean processes. These compounds are also sensitive indicators highlighting interior ocean regions where surface-derived anomalies can be transported on timescales of decades. Significant applications for CFCs have been for the deep limb of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation, upper ocean ventilation, and biogeochemical rates, including apparent oxygen utilization rates and anthropogenic CO 2 inventories. Although CFCs have started to decrease in the atmosphere, SF 6 continues to increase. There are benefits to measuring both CFCs and SF 6: A large global CFC data set exists; CFCs are still increasing in older waters; SF 6 expands estimates of age; and calculations of anthropogenic CO 2 inventory are enhanced. Thus, the outlook for using CFCs as tracers for oceanic processes, and in particular in concert with SF 6, remains very positive.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)173-195
Number of pages23
JournalAnnual Review of Marine Science
StatePublished - 2011


  • chlorofluorocarbons
  • ocean biogeochemistry
  • ocean circulation
  • ocean tracers
  • sulfur hexafluoride

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography


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