Aluminium is the most abundant metallic element in the Earth's crust (8.23% by weight)1, yet little is known about its oceanic distribution. Published data sets concerning aluminium in sea-water2 are primarily for the North Atlantic Ocean3–7. We report here that dissolved aluminium concentrations in the central North Pacific are 8–40 times lower than those at corresponding depths in the central North Atlantic, but the vertical distribution features are similar. The vertical distribution and inter-ocean fractionation of aluminium can be explained by geographical variations in atmospheric aluminium sources, intense particle scavenging throughout the water column, and some regeneration in bottom waters. Aluminium's short oceanic residence time (estimated here as 100–200 years) leads to its marked inter-ocean fractionation, which is the reverse of that for nutrient elements such as silicon.
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