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Ocean's least productive waters are expanding
Polovina, J.J.; Howell, E.A.; Abecassis, M. (2008). Ocean's least productive waters are expanding. Geophys. Res. Lett. 35: L03618 (1-5).
In: Geophysical Research Letters. American Geophysical Union: Washington. ISSN 0094-8276, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Polovina, J.J.
  • Howell, E.A.
  • Abecassis, M.

    A 9-year time series of SeaWiFS remotely-sensed ocean color data is used to examine temporal trends in the ocean's most oligotrophic waters, those with surface chlorophyll not exceeding 0.07 mg chl/m³. In the North and South Pacific, North and South Atlantic, outside the equatorial zone, the areas of low surface chlorophyll waters have expanded at average annual rates from 0.8 to 4.3%/yr and replaced about 0.8 million km²/yr of higher surface chlorophyll habitat with low surface chlorophyll water. It is estimated that the low surface chlorophyll areas in these oceans combined have expanded by 6.6 million km² or by about 15.0% from 1998 through 2006. In both hemispheres, evidence shows a more rapid expansion of the low surface chlorophyll waters during the winter. The North Atlantic, which has the smallest oligotrophic gyre is expanding most rapidly, both annually at 4.3%/yr and seasonally, in the first quarter at 8.5%/yr. Mean sea surface temperature in each of these 4 subtropical gyres also increased over the 9-year period. The expansion of the low chlorophyll waters is consistent with global warming scenarios based on increased vertical stratification in the mid-latitudes, but the rates of expansion we observe already greatly exceed recent model predictions.

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