Ocean currents, chemistry and biology interact to control the horizontal and vertical distribution of elements in the ocean. Click on an element to find its distribution. The elements that we study are shown in red.

The Periodic Table of the Elements in the Ocean (PTEO) was inspired by the article “A fresh look at element distributions in the North Pacific” written by Yoshiyuki Nozaki and the on-line periodic table Web Elements, which was developed by Mark Winter.  Nozaki summarized elemental distributions in the ocean by encapsulating graphs of vertical profiles within a periodic table format.  The Web Elements page demonstrated how Nozaki’s concept could be extended much further.

The PTEO provides the mean concentration, ocean residence time, and, where available, a profile for each element in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.  The mean concentrations of each element come primarily from Nozaki, with a few exceptions noted within the PTEO.   Each concentration has been converted to molal (mol/kg) or molar (mol/L) units.  These values are essentially interchangeable, differing only by the density of seawater, which is about 1.02 kg/L.  Chemical speciation comes primarily from the review of trace metals in seawater by Bruland (1983) and the review of metal speciation by Byrne et al. (1988).  There are no recent compilations of residence times for elements in seawater, so the source for each residence time is explained on the page for each element.  A summary table of the mean element concentrations and residence times is also available.  The profiles do not always provide a sense of the variability of elements in the ocean and the impact that this variability can have on biogeochemical processes.  Where possible, sections of chemical distributions through the ocean or records of temporal variability have been added to the pages.  Many of these extra plots were prepared with the program Ocean Data View, written by Reiner Schlitzer.  Ocean Data View has proven to be an extremely helpful tool for visualizing this chemical variability.

The content of the Periodic Table of Elements in the Ocean was authored by Kenneth Johnson.  Bradley Johnson created the basic layout of the PTEO web using Java Script and HTML.  Holly Johnson did the library research and was editorial assistant.


Bruland, K., 1983.  Trace elements in seawater, in Chemical Oceanography, 2nd Edition, Vol. 8, ed. Riley, J. P., and Chester, R.,  pp. 147-220, Academic, London.

Byrne, R. H., Kump, L. R., and Cantrell, K. J., 1988. The influence of temperature and pH on trace metal speciation in seawater.  Mar. Chem. 2: 163-181



Please email johnson@mbari.org