Quantifying the impact of submesoscale processes on the spring phytoplankton bloom in a turbulent upper ocean using a Lagrangian approach

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Brody, Sarah R.
Lozier, M. Susan
Mahadevan, Amala
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Mixed layer eddies
Phytoplankton blooms
Lagrangian modeling
Heat fluxes
Localized stratification
The spring phytoplankton bloom in the subpolar North Atlantic and the mechanisms controlling its evolution and onset have important consequences for marine ecosystems and carbon cycling. Submesoscale mixed layer eddies (MLEs) play a role in the onset of the bloom by creating localized stratification and alleviating phytoplankton light limitation; however, the importance of MLEs for phytoplankton in a turbulent surface mixed layer has not yet been examined. We explore the effect of MLEs on phytoplankton by simulating their trajectories with Lagrangian particles subject to turbulent vertical displacements in an MLE-resolving model. By tracking the light exposure of the simulated phytoplankton, we find that MLEs can advance the timing of the spring bloom by 1 to 2 weeks, depending on surface forcing conditions. The onset of the bloom is linked with the onset of positive heat fluxes, whether or not MLEs are present.
Author Posting. © American Geophysical Union, 2016. This article is posted here by permission of American Geophysical Union for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Geophysical Research Letters 43 (2016): 5160–5169, doi:10.1002/2016GL068051.
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Geophysical Research Letters 43 (2016): 5160–5169
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