Synchronicity between ice retreat and phytoplankton bloom in circum-Antarctic polynyas Academic Article uri icon


  • Phytoplankton in Antarctic coastal polynyas has a temporally short yet spatially variant growth window constrained by ice cover and day length. Using 18-year satellite measurements (1997–2015) of sea ice and chlorophyll concentrations, we assessed the synchronicity between the spring phytoplankton bloom and light availability, taking into account the ice cover and the incident solar irradiance, for 50 circum-Antarctic coastal polynyas. The synchronicity was strong (i.e., earlier ice-adjusted light onset leads to earlier bloom and vice versa) in most of the western Antarctic polynyas but weak in a majority of the eastern Antarctic polynyas. The west-east asymmetry is related to sea ice production rate: the formation of many eastern Antarctic polynyas is associated with strong katabatic wind and high sea ice production rate, leading to stronger water column mixing that could damp phytoplankton blooms and weaken the synchronicity.

publication date

  • March 16, 2016