Linking deep convection and phytoplankton blooms in the northern Labrador Sea in a changing climate. Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • Wintertime convective mixing plays a pivotal role in the sub-polar North Atlantic spring phytoplankton blooms by favoring phytoplankton survival in the competition between light-dependent production and losses due to grazing and gravitational settling. We use satellite and ocean reanalyses to show that the area-averaged maximum winter mixed layer depth is positively correlated with April chlorophyll concentration in the northern Labrador Sea. A simple theoretical framework is developed to understand the relative roles of winter/spring convection and gravitational sedimentation in spring blooms in this region. Combining climate model simulations that project a weakening of wintertime Labrador Sea convection from Arctic sea ice melt with our framework suggests a potentially significant reduction in the initial fall phytoplankton population that survive the winter to seed the region's spring bloom by the end of the 21st century.

publication date

  • 2018