Characterizing upper-ocean mixing and its effect on the spring phytoplankton bloom with in situ data
© 2015 International Council for the Exploration of the Sea. All rights reserved. Since publication, the Sverdrup hypothesis, that phytoplankton are uniformly distributed within the ocean mixed layer and bloom once the ocean warms and stratifies in spring, has been the conventional explanation of subpolar phytoplankton spring bloom initiation. Recent studies have sought to differentiate between the actively mixing section of the upper ocean and the uniform-density mixed layer, arguing, as Sverdrup implied, that decreases in active mixing drive the spring bloom. In this study, we use in situ data to investigate the characteristics and depth of active mixing in both buoyancy- and wind-driven regimes and explore the idea that the shift from buoyancy-driven to wind-driven mixing in the late winter or early spring creates the conditions necessary for blooms to begin. We identify the bloom initiation based on net rates of biomass accumulation and relate changes in the depth of active mixing to changes in biomass depth profiles. These analyses support the idea that decreases in the depth of active mixing, a result of the transition from buoyancy-driven to wind-driven mixing, control the timing of the spring bloom.
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