Enhancement of primary production in the North Atlantic outside of the spring bloom, identified by remote sensing of ocean colour and temperature

Gavin H. Tilstone*, Peter I. Miller, Robert J. W. Brewin, Imants G. Priede

*Corresponding author for this work

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The heterogeneity in phytoplankton production in the North Atlantic after the spring bloom is poorly understood. We analysed merged microwave and infrared satellite sea surface temperature (SST) data and ocean colour phytoplankton size class biomass, primary production (PP) and new production (ExP) derived from SeaWiFS data, to assess the spatial and temporal frequency of surface thermal fronts and areas of enhanced PP and ExP. Strong and persistent surface thermal fronts occurred at the Reykjanes Ridge (RR) and sub-polar front (SPF), which sustain high PP and ExP and, outside of the spring bloom, account for 9% and 15% of the total production in the North Atlantic. When normalised by area, PP at the SPF is four times higher than the RR. Analysis of 13 years of satellite ocean colour data from SeaWiFS, and compared with MODIS-Aqua and MERIS, showed that there was no increase in Chla from 1998 to 2002, which then decreased in all areas from 2002 to 2007 and was most pronounced in the RR. These time series also illustrated that the SPF exhibited the highest PP and the lowest variation in Chia over the ocean colour record. This implies that the SPF provides a high and consistent supply of carbon to the benthos irrespective of fluctuations in the North Atlantic Oscillation. Crown Copyright (C) 2013 Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-86
Number of pages10
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
Early online date4 Oct 2013
Publication statusPublished - 25 Apr 2014


  • phytoplanlcton
  • primary production
  • North Atlantic
  • Reykjanes Ridge
  • sub-polar front
  • sea surface temperature
  • continuous plankton recorder
  • interannual variability
  • phtoplankton biomass
  • export production
  • ridge
  • circulation
  • decline
  • surface
  • impact
  • model

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