A synthesis of the environmental response of the North and South Atlantic Sub-Tropical Gyres during two decades of AMT

Aiken, J, Brewin, RJW, Dufois, F, Polimene, L, Hardman-Mountford, NJ, Jackson, T, Loveday, BR, Mallor-hoya, S, Dall’Olmo, G, Stephens, JA and Hirata, T 2016 A synthesis of the environmental response of the North and South Atlantic Sub-Tropical Gyres during two decades of AMT. Progress in Oceanography. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pocean.2016.08.004

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Anthropogenically-induced global warming is expected to decrease primary productivity in the subtropical oceans by strengthening stratification of the water column and reducing the flux of nutrients from deep-waters to the sunlit surface layers. Identification of such changes is hindered by a paucity of long-term, spatially-resolved, biological time-series data at the basin scale. This paper exploits Atlantic Meridional Transect (AMT) data on physical and biogeochemical properties (1995–2014) in synergy with a wide range of remote-sensing (RS) observations from ocean colour, Sea Surface Temperature (SST), Sea Surface Salinity (SSS) and altimetry (surface currents), combined with different modelling approaches (both empirical and a coupled 1-D Ecosystem model), to produce a synthesis of the seasonal functioning of the North and South Atlantic Sub-Tropical Gyres (STGs), and assess their response to longer-term changes in climate. We explore definitive characteristics of the STGs using data of physical (SST, SSS and peripheral current systems) and biogeochemical variables (chlorophyll and nitrate), with inherent criteria (permanent thermal stratification and oligotrophy), and define the gyre boundary from a sharp gradient in these physical and biogeochemical properties. From RS data, the seasonal cycles for the period 1998–2012 show significant relationships between physical properties (SST and PAR) and gyre area. In contrast to expectations, the surface layer chlorophyll concentration from RS data (CHL) shows an upward trend for the mean values in both subtropical gyres. Furthermore, trends in physical properties (SST, PAR, gyre area) differ between the North and South STGs, suggesting the processes responsible for an upward trend in CHL may vary between gyres. There are significant anomalies in CHL and SST that are associated with El Niño events. These conclusions are drawn cautiously considering the short length of the time-series (1998–2012), emphasising the need to sustain spatially-extensive surveys such as AMT and integrate such observations with models, autonomous observations and RS data, to help address fundamental questions about how our planet is responding to climate change. A small number of dedicated AMT cruises in the keystone months of January and July would complement our understanding of seasonal cycles in the STGs.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Additional Keywords: bio-physical functioning Atlantic Sub-Tropical Gyres
Subjects: Earth Observation - Remote Sensing
Earth Sciences
Marine Sciences
Divisions: Plymouth Marine Laboratory > National Capability categories > Atlantic Meridional Transect
Depositing User: Dr Benjamin Loveday
Date made live: 03 Mar 2017 09:43
Last Modified: 25 Apr 2020 09:58
URI: https://plymsea.ac.uk/id/eprint/7397

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