Southern Ocean wind-driven entrainment enhances satellite chlorophyll-a through the summer
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1002/2014JC010203
Despite being the largest High Nitrate Low Chlorophyll (HNLC) region, the Southern Ocean sustains phytoplankton blooms through the summer, when presumably there is sufficient light, but nutrients in the euphotic zone have been depleted. Physical processes that can potentially supply nutrients from subsurface waters to the euphotic zone, and promote phytoplankton growth in the summer, have not been fully explored at the large scale. By means of a correlation analysis, this study combines high-resolution satellite observations of ocean color, winds and sea surface temperature, surface heat fluxes from reanalysis and Argo mixed-layer depth (MLD) estimates to explore the role of the atmospheric forcing (i.e., winds and surface heat fluxes) on upper ocean processes that may help sustain high satellite chlorophyll-a (Chl-a) through the summer. Two physical processes that can supply nutrients to the euphotic zone are: MLD deepening, caused by wind-mixing and/or surface cooling, and Ekman pumping driven by the wind stress curl. We find that high winds correlate with high Chl-a over broad open ocean areas, suggesting that transient MLD deepening through wind-mixing (i.e., wind-driven entrainment) helps sustain high Chl-a. Wind-driven entrainment plays a dominant role on time scales associated with atmospheric synoptic storms (i.e., <10 days) and has a larger influence on surface Chl-a than storm scale local Ekman pumping. Based on our analysis of statistically significant correlation patterns, we identify regions in the Southern Ocean where wind-induced entrainment may play a role in sustaining summer phytoplankton blooms.