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Seasonal variability of the surface chlorophyll in the western tropical Pacific from SeaWiFS data

Abstract : We used Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view Sensor (SeaWiFS) to document the seasonal cycle of surface chlorophyll in the western tropical Pacific. Surface waters in this region can be divided into two ecosystems. The western end of the cold, salty waters of the cold tongue with high nutrient low chlorophyll (HNLC) characteristics occupies most of the eastern part Of the region, while warm, fresh, and oligotrophic waters of the warm pool stand in the western part. Nevertheless, disruption of the oligotrophy may show up at different locations. We reconstructed the seasonal cycle of chlorophyll, sea surface temperature (SST), winds, and surface currents from satellite data and satellite-derived products by extracting the annual and semi-annual harmonics of the time series at each grid point. The calculation was done for the 1999-2004 years in order to exclude the consequences of the major 1997-1998 El Nino Southern Oscillation event. The variance explained by the seasonal cycle for this period highlights three regions with high seasonality: (1) The oligotrophy/HNLC transition zone undergoes meridional seasonal displacements. The cold tongue is at its northernmost (southernmost) position during boreal spring (fall). These displacements can be explained in terms of meridional advection of chlorophyll-rich waters and are consistent with the seasonal cycle of the north and south equatorial countercurrents that transport phytoplankton-poor waters. (2) Ocean-color images show seasonal enrichments in the far western north equatorial countercurrent (NECC) area, especially during boreal spring. The chlorophyll maximum coincides with the maximum NECC velocity, follows a SST minimum, and occurs during the upwelling-favorable phase of the wind stress curl. We attribute these enrichments to local upwelling associated with current meandering, horizontal advection from further west, and transport of nutrient-rich waters by the New Guinea coastal undercurrent. (3) Near the Solomon Archipelago, we observe enhancements of chlorophyll concentration southwest of the islands in austral winter, when both the southwestward surface currents and the southeasterly wind stress are strongest. This may be a combination of an island-mass effect and wind-driven upwelling. Horizontal advection from the Solomon area leads to an almost concurrent seasonal chlorophyll enrichment in the northern Coral Sea. In the Gulf of Papua, high chlorophyll concentrations at the same time can be explained by the presence of a strong cyclonic circulation. This study highlights the richness of the response of surface chlorophyll to physical processes at the seasonal time scale in a region usually acknowledged as oligotrophic.
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Monique Messié, Marie-Helene Radenac. Seasonal variability of the surface chlorophyll in the western tropical Pacific from SeaWiFS data. Deep Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers, Elsevier, 2006, 53 (10), pp.1581-1600. ⟨10.1016/j.dsr.2006.06.007⟩. ⟨hal-00406697⟩

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