A global view of bio-physical coupling from SeaWiFS and TOPEX satellite data, 1997-2001

Cara Wilson and David Adamec

Geophysical Research Letters, 29, 10.1029/2001GL014063, 2002


Vertical fluxes of nutrient-rich water from below the nutricline to the ocean surface can be a limiting factor affecting surface chlorophyll, and the depth of the nutricline plays an important role in the regulation of surface productivity. Because subsurface nutrient data is less available than physical oceanographic data, satellite chlorophyll (SC) data has been compared to satellite sea-level anomalies (SLA), because SLA largely reflects changes in the thermocline depth, and the thermocline and nutricline are often colocated. Here global correlations between 46 months of TOPEX SLA and SeaWiFS SC are examined. These two measurements are predominately negatively correlated as smaller SLA implies a shallower thermocline/nutricline, which will increase the surface nutrient flux and increase phytoplankton concentrations. However, there are large areas in all ocean basins where the correlations suggest that SC are affected by processes other than thermocline depth changes.

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