In the Southern Ocean, there is increasing evidence that seasonal to subseasonal temporal scales, and meso- to submesoscales play an important role in understanding the sensitivity of ocean primary productivity to climate change. This drives the need for a high-resolution approach to resolving biogeochemical processes. In this study, 5.5 months of continuous, high-resolution (3 h, 2 km horizontal resolution) glider data from spring to summer in the Atlantic Subantarctic Zone is used to investigate: (i) the mechanisms that drive bloom initiation and high growth rates in the region and (ii) the seasonal evolution of water column production and respiration. Bloom initiation dates were analysed in the context of upper ocean boundary layer physics highlighting sensitivities of different bloom detection methods to different environmental processes. Model results show that in early spring (September to mid-November) increased rates of net community production (NCP) are strongly affected by meso- to submesoscale features. In late spring/early summer (late-November to mid-December) seasonal shoaling of the mixed layer drives a more spatially homogenous bloom with maximum rates of NCP and chlorophyll biomass. A comparison of biomass accumulation rates with a study in the North Atlantic highlights the sensitivity of phytoplankton growth to fine-scale dynamics and emphasizes the need to sample the ocean at high resolution to accurately resolve phytoplankton phenology and improve our ability to estimate the sensitivity of the biological carbon pump to climate change.Link to Full Article
In December 2003, a hydrographic section across the Drake Passage was carried out by R/V Akademik Sergei Vavilov from King George Island to Tierra del Fuego with a Seabird 911 and lowered Doppler current (ADCP) profilers. A total of 25 stations were occupied across the passage from the surface to the bottom. The geostrophic water transport by the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) above the bottom reference level is estimated at 111 Sv (1 Sv = 106 m3/s), while the transport above the 3000 dbar reference level is equal to 97 Sv. These values are close to the smallest ones in the record of measurements of water transport through the Drake Passage since 1975. The geostrophic velocities are compared with the LADCP and shipborne ADCP measurements.
In the Southern Ocean there is increasing evidence that seasonal to sub-seasonal temporal scales, meso- and submesoscales play an important role in understanding the sensitivity of ocean primary productivity to climate change. In this study, high-resolution glider data (3 hourly, 2km horizontal resolution), from ~6 months of sampling (spring through summer) in the Sub-Antarctic Zone, is used to assess 1) the different forcing mechanisms driving variability in upper ocean physics and 2) how these may characterize the seasonal cycle of phytoplankton production. Results highlight the important role meso- to submesoscale features have in driving vertical stratification and early phytoplankton bloom initiations in spring by increasing light exposure. In summer, the combined role of solar heat flux, mesoscale features and subseasonal storms on the extent of the mixed layer is proposed to regulate both light and iron to the upper ocean at appropriate time scales for phytoplankton growth, thereby sustaining the bloom for an extended period through to late summer. This study highlights the need for climate models to resolve both meso- to submesoscale and subseasonal processes in order to accurately reflect the phenology of the phytoplankton community and understand the sensitivity of ocean primary productivity to climate change.Link to Full Article
Mesoscale eddies and meanders have been shown to be one of the dominant sources of flow variability in the world’s ocean. One example of an isolated eddy hotspot is the South-West Indian Ridge (SWIR). Several investigations have shown that the SWIR and the corresponding planetary potential vorticity field (f/H) exert a strong influence on the location and dynamics of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC), resulting in substantial fragmentation of the jets downstream of the ridge. The easterly extension of this eddy corridor appears to be restricted to the deep channel separating the Conrad Rise from the Del Cano and Crozet Plateau. However, while the fate of eddies formed at the SWIR has been widely investigated and the frontal character of this eastward extension is well known, the zone of diminishing variability that extends southwards to approximately 60S remains poorly sampled. Using a combination of Argo, AVISO and NCEP/NCAR datasets, the character of this eddy corridor as a conduit for warm core eddies to move across the ACC into the Antarctic zone is investigated. In this study, we track a single warm-core eddy as it moves southwards from an original position of 31E, 50 20′ S to where it dissipates 10 months later in the Enderby Basin at 561200 S. An Argo float entrained within the eddy confirms that its water masses are consistent with water found within the Antarctic Polar Frontal Zone north of the APF. Latent and sensible heat fluxes are on average 8 W/m2 and 10 W/m2 greater over the eddy than directly east of this feature. It is estimated that the eddy lost an average of 5 W/m2 of latent heat and 5 W/m2 of sensible heat over a 1-year period, an amount capable of melting approximately 0.92 m of sea ice. In addition, using an eddy tracking algorithm a total of 28 eddies are identified propagating southwards, 25 of which are anti-cyclonic in rotation. Based on the new Argo float data, combined with AVISO and NCEP/NCAR datasets, these results suggest that the southward passage of warm-core eddies act as vehicles transporting heat, salt and biota southwards across the ACC and into the eastern boundary of the Weddell gyre.Link to Full Article
Iron availability influences phytoplankton physiology and growth over more than one-third of the surface oceans, with recent evidence even indicating iron stress during and following the latter stages of the spring bloom in the high latitude North Atlantic. The mechanistic basis of the phytoplankton physiological responses used for diagnosing iron stress and the broader ecophysiological consequences of iron stress within natural phytoplankton communities still remain unclear. We describe photosynthetic macromolecular and physiological responses of natural phytoplankton communities both in situ and within factorial nutrient-addition (iron and nitrogen) experiments over a seasonal growth cycle in the subpolar North Atlantic. The abundance of quantified photosynthetic proteins increased under relief of iron stress, with the synthesis of the associated protein catalytic complexes accounting for, ~ 3% of inorganic nitrogen drawdown. However, no significant differences in the stoichiometries of the photosynthetic complexes were observed, suggesting that re-modeling of the photosynthetic electron transport chain was not a significant influence on the community-level ecophysiological responses to iron stress. In marked contrast, iron stress resulted in significant increases in the cellular ratios of chlorophyll to the photosynthetic catalysts, including photosystem II (PSII), alongside a marked increase in PSII normalized chlorophyll fluorescence. Characteristic depressions in apparent photosynthetic energy conversion efficiencies in iron-limited oceanic regions are thus likely driven by a significant accumulation of partially energetically uncoupled chlorophyll-binding complexes. Such iron-stress–induced chlorophyll-binding proteins may contribute, ~ 40% of the total chlorophyll pool during iron-stressed periods.Link to Full Article
The first Southern Ocean Observing System (SOOS) Asian Workshop was successfully held in Shanghai, China in May 2013, attracting over 40 participants from six Asian nations and widening exposure to the objectives and plans of SOOS. The workshop was organized to clarify Asian research activities currently taking place in the Southern Ocean and to discuss, amongst other items, the potential for collaborative efforts with and between Asian countries in SOOS-related activities. The workshop was an important mechanism to initiate discussion, understanding and collaborative avenues in the Asian domain of SOOS beyond current established efforts. Here we present some of the major outcomes of the workshop covering the principle themes of SOOS and attempt to provide a way forward to achieve a more integrated research community, enhance data collection and quality, and guide scientific strategy in the Southern Ocean.Link to Full Article
SOOS must be a fully integrated and coordinated international system with infrastructure, resources and investment from all nations involved in the Southern Ocean research and observations. This was the motivation behind the organization of the SOOS Asian workshop. The objective of the SOOS Asian Workshop was to highlight the activities of Asian countries currently engaged in Southern Ocean research and observations relevant to the SOOS science strategy, and to stimulate discussion and foster further involvement from Asian countries in the SOOS activities.Link to Full Article
Low levels of iron limit primary productivity across much of the Southern Ocean. At the basin scale, most dissolved iron is supplied to surface waters from subsurface reservoirs, because land inputs are spatially limited. Deep mixing in winter together with year-round diffusion across density surfaces, known as diapycnal diffusion, are the main physical processes that carry iron-laden subsurface waters to the surface. Here, we analyse data on dissolved iron concentrations in the top 1,000 m of the Southern Ocean, taken from all known and available cruises to date, together with hydrographic data to determine the relative importance of deep winter mixing and diapycnal diffusion to dissolved iron fluxes at the basin scale. Using information on the vertical distribution of iron we show that deep winter mixing supplies ten times more iron to the surface ocean each year, on average, than diapycnal diffusion. Biological observations from the sub-Antarctic sector suggest that following the depletion of this wintertime iron pulse, intense iron recycling sustains productivity over the subsequent spring and summer. We conclude that winter mixing and surface-water iron recycling are important drivers of temporal variations in Southern Ocean primary production.
The variability of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) system is largely linked to the atmospheric forcing. The objective of this work is to assess the link between local wind forcing mechanisms and the variability of the upper-ocean temperature and the dynamics of the different fronts in the ACC region south of South Africa. To accomplish this, in situ and satellite-derived observations are used between 1993 and 2010. The main finding of this work is that meridional changes in the westerlies linked with the Southern Annular Mode (SAM) drive temperature anomalies in the Ekman layer and changes in the Subantarctic Front (SAF) and Antarctic Polar Front (APF) transports through Ekman dynamics. The development of easterly anomalies between 35°S and 45°S during positive SAM is linked to reduced (increased) SAF (APF) transports and a warmer mixed layer in the ACC. The link between the changes in the wind stress and the SAF and APF transport variations occurs through the development of Ekman pumping anomalies near the frontal boundaries, driving an opposite response on the SAF and APF transports. The observed wind-driven changes in the frontal transports suggest small changes to the net ACC transport. In addition, observations indicate that the SAF and APF locations in this region are not linked to the local wind forcing, emphasizing the importance of other factors (e.g., baroclinic instabilities generated by bottom topography) to changes in the frontal location. Results obtained here highlight the importance of repeat XBT temperature sections and their combined analysis with other in situ and remote sensing observations.Link to Full Article
Hydrographic data from three research cruises, occupying the GoodHope line in the Atlantic sector of the Southern Ocean, are used to identify and quantify Expendable Bathythermograph (XBT) temperature biases. A set of 148 collocated XBT and CTD stations, separated by a maximum distance of <12.5 nm and <10 h, are used in this study. A subset of these comparisons is also investigated. This subset consists of 24 simultaneous pairs where the XBT and CTD stations are within 2.5 nm and 2 h of one another. These simultaneous pairs are extremely rare in XBT bias experiments and provide data set to assess, in deeper detail, the behaviour of the bias. The net bias, which is a product of both the depth offset and the pure thermal bias, is investigated with depth per frontal zone for both the collocated and simultaneous comparisons and found to be on the whole positive, meaning warmer XBT readings compared to the CTD values at each depth. The total mean bias for all collocated pairs was found to be 0.101 +/- 0.024 1C, and for the simultaneous subset the net bias had a mean value of 0.130 +/- 0.064C. An investigation into the magnitude of the depth offset was also undertaken, exposing generally positive depth biases, thereby indicating an overestimation of depth by the fall rate equation. A sizeable variation in bias between frontal zones is observed, along with an expected increase of net bias in regions of steeper temperature gradient. The contribution of the pure thermal bias is explored and found to be comparatively small yet still sizeable (mean bias = 0.053 +/- 0.063C). Results found in this study further support the hypothesis of the regional dependence of the XBT fall rate on water temperature, and thus water viscosity. In addition, results obtained here highlight the need to develop an XBT bias correction scheme specifically appropriate to the Southern Ocean.Link to Full Article
Aerosol deposition from the 2010 eruption of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull resulted in significant dissolved iron (DFe) inputs to the Iceland Basin of the North Atlantic. Unique ship-board measurements indicated strongly enhanced DFe concentrations (up to 10 nM) immediately under the ash plume. Bioassay experiments performed with ash collected at sea under the plume also demonstrated the potential for associated Fe release to stimulate phytoplankton growth and nutrient drawdown. Combining Fe dissolution measurements with modeled ash deposition suggested that the eruption had the potential to increase DFe by > 0.2 nM over an area of up to 570,000 km2 . Although satellite ocean color data only indicated minor increases in phytoplankton abundance over a relatively constrained area, comparison of in situ nitrate concentrations with historical records suggested that ash deposition may have resulted in enhanced major nutrient drawdown. Our observations thus suggest that the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption resulted in a significant perturbation to the biogeochemistry of the Iceland Basin.Link to Full Article
The high-latitude North Atlantic (HLNA) is characterized by a marked seasonal phytoplankton bloom, which removes the majority of surface macronutrients. However, incomplete nitrate depletion is frequently observed during summer in the region, potentially reflecting the seasonal development of an iron (Fe) limited phytoplankton community. In order to investigate the seasonal development and spatial extent of iron stress in the HLNA, nutrient addition experiments were performed during the spring (May) and late summer (July and August) of 2010. Grow-out experiments (48–120 h) confirmed the potential for iron limitation in the region. Short-term (24 h) incubations further enabled high spatial coverage and mapping of phytoplankton physiological responses to iron addition. The difference in the apparent maximal photochemical yield of photosystem II (PSII) (Fv : Fm) between nutrient (iron) amended and control treatments (Δ(Fv : Fm)) was used as a measure of the relative degree of iron stress. The combined observations indicated variability in the seasonal cycle of iron stress between different regions of the Irminger and Iceland Basins of the HLNA, related to the timing of the annual bloom cycle in contrasting biogeochemical provinces. Phytoplankton iron stress developed during the transition from the prebloom to peak bloom conditions in the HLNA and was more severe for larger cells. Subsequently, iron stress was reduced in regions where macronutrients were depleted following the bloom. Iron availability plays a significant role in the biogeochemistry of the HLNA, potentially lowering the efficiency of one of the strongest biological carbon pumps in the ocean.Link to Full Article
The canonical C/N/P ratio of 106/16/1 in phytoplankton has been instrumental in our understanding of ocean biogeochemical cycles and the development of numerical models as it couples the cycling of C to nutrients. However, this ratio can show marked variability and the processes driving these trends are still uncertain. There are, in particular, two main hypotheses to explain N/P ratios that deviate from 16/1. Firstly, it is postulated that species have specific, yet distinct, ratios that are averaged out over large spatial and temporal scales (Weber and Deutsch, 2010). Alternatively, varying optimal growth strategies resulting from physiological adaptation to environmental conditions could drive N/P variability, which simply averages out as 16/1 under current environmental conditions (Klausmeier et al., 2004). To address these hypotheses, we examine seasonal changes in the NO3- to PO43- ratio (via the geochemical tracer N*) on a section between Cape Town and Antarctica, where macronutrients are not fully depleted. Overall, we find roles for both species composition and physiology in driving the seasonal changes in N* depending on the location. Both mechanisms could act in concert and physiology was generally more important in regions undergoing large changes in phytoplankton biomass. Better understanding the driving mechanisms behind changes in the Southern Ocean N/P ratio is important as its signal is exported to low latitudes, having major impacts on global biogeochemical cycles.Link to Full Article