Article

Eddy-driven stratification initiates North Atlantic spring phytoplankton blooms.

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA 02543, USA.
Science (Impact Factor: 31.48). 07/2012; 337(6090):54-8. DOI: 10.1126/science.1218740
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Springtime phytoplankton blooms photosynthetically fix carbon and export it from the surface ocean at globally important rates. These blooms are triggered by increased light exposure of the phytoplankton due to both seasonal light increase and the development of a near-surface vertical density gradient (stratification) that inhibits vertical mixing of the phytoplankton. Classically and in current climate models, that stratification is ascribed to a springtime warming of the sea surface. Here, using observations from the subpolar North Atlantic and a three-dimensional biophysical model, we show that the initial stratification and resulting bloom are instead caused by eddy-driven slumping of the basin-scale north-south density gradient, resulting in a patchy bloom beginning 20 to 30 days earlier than would occur by warming.

0 Bookmarks
 · 
232 Views
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Using inorganic carbon measurements from an international survey effort in the 1990s and a tracer-based separation technique, we estimate a global oceanic anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) sink for the period from 1800 to 1994 of 118 +/- 19 petagrams of carbon. The oceanic sink accounts for approximately 48% of the total fossil-fuel and cement-manufacturing emissions, implying that the terrestrial biosphere was a net source of CO2 to the atmosphere of about 39 +/- 28 petagrams of carbon for this period. The current fraction of total anthropogenic CO2 emissions stored in the ocean appears to be about one-third of the long-term potential.
    Science 08/2004; 305(5682):367-71. · 31.48 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Establishment of the temperature-salinity relationship in the ocean has concerned oceanographers for decades because of its importance for understanding ocean circulation. High-resolution measurements in the ocean mixed layer are used to show that temperature and salinity gradients on horizontal scales of 20 meters to 10 kilometers tend to compensate in their effect on density. These observations support the notion of a horizontal mixing in the mixed layer that depends on density gradient.
    Science 02/1999; 283(5401):526-9. · 31.48 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: More than 50 years ago, Harald Sverdrup developed a simple model for the necessary conditions leading to the spring bloom of phytoplankton. Although this model has been used extensively across a variety of aquatic ecosystems, its application requires knowledge of community compensation irradiance (IC), the light level where photosynthetic and ecosystem community loss processes balance. However, reported IC values have varied by an order of magnitude. Here, IC estimates are determined using satellite and hydrographic data sets consistent with the assumptions in Sverdrup's 1953 critical depth hypothesis. Retrieved values of IC are approximately uniform throughout much of the North Atlantic with a mean value of 1.3 mol photons meter-2 day-1. These community-based IC determinations are roughly twice typical values found for phytoplankton alone indicating that phytoplankton account for approximately one-half of community ecosystem losses. This work also suggests that important aspects of heterotrophic community dynamics can be assessed using satellite observations.
    Science 05/2002; 296(5568):730-3. · 31.48 Impact Factor