Ocean nutrient pathways associated with passage of a storm

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Storms that affect ocean surface layer dynamics and primary production are a frequent occurrence in the open North Atlantic Ocean. In this study we use an interdisciplinary data set collected in the region to quantify nutrient supply by two pathways associated with a storm event: entrainment of nutrients during a period of high wind forcing and subsequent shear spiking at the pycnocline due to interactions of storm-generated inertial currents with wind. The poststorm increase in surface layer nitrate (by ~20 mmol m−2) was predominantly driven by the first pathway: nutrient intrusion during the storm. Alignment of poststorm inertial currents and surface wind stress caused shear instabilities at the ocean pycnocline, forming the second pathway for nutrient transport into the euphotic zone. During the alignment period, pulses of high-turbulence nitrate flux through the pycnocline (up to 1 mmol m−2 d−1; approximately 25 times higher than the background flux) were detected. However, the impact of the poststorm supply was an order of magnitude lower than during the storm due to the short duration of the pulses. Cumulatively, the storm passage was equivalent to 2.5–5% of the nitrate supplied by winter convection and had a significant effect compared to previously reported (sub)mesoscale dynamics in the region. As storms occur frequently, they can form an important component in local nutrient budgets.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1179–1189
JournalGlobal Biogeochemical Cycles
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jul 2015

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