Impact of eddy–wind interaction on eddy demographics and phytoplankton community structure in a model of the North Atlantic Ocean Academic Article uri icon


  • Two eddy-resolving (0.1-degree) physical-biological simulations of the North Atlantic Ocean are compared, one with the surface momentum flux computed only from wind velocities and the other using the difference between air and ocean velocity vectors. This difference in forcing has a significant impact on the intensities and relative number of different types of mesoscale eddies in the Sargasso Sea. Eddy/wind interaction significantly reduces eddy intensities and increases the number of mode-water eddies and “thinnies” relative to regular cyclones and anticyclones; it also modifies upward isopycnal displacements at the base of the euphotic zone, increasing them in the centers of mode water eddies and at the edges of cyclones, and decreasing them in the centers of cyclones. These physical changes increase phytoplankton growth rates and biomass in mode-water eddies, bringing the biological simulation into better agreement with field data. These results indicate the importance of including the eddy/wind interaction in simulations of the physics and biology of eddies in the subtropical North Atlantic. However, eddy intensities in the simulation with eddy/wind interaction are lower than observed, which suggests a decrease in horizontal viscosity or an increase in horizontal grid resolution will be necessary to regain the observed level of eddy activity.

publication date

  • September 2011