Marine algae are ‘taught’ the basics of angular momentum

John Taylor Allen

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    Advanced modelling studies and high-resolution observations have shown that flows related to instability of the mesoscale (~ 1–10 km scale) may provide both the fertilisation mechanism for nutrient-depleted (oligotrophic) surface waters and a subduction mechanism for the rapid export of phytoplankton biomass to the deep ocean. Here, a detailed multidisciplinary analysis of the data from an example high-resolution observational campaign is presented. The data provide direct observations of the transport of phytoplankton through baroclinic instability. Furthermore, the data confirm that this transport is constrained by the requirement to conserve angular momentum, expressed in a stratified water column as the conservation of potential vorticity. This constraint is clearly seen to produce long thin filaments of phytoplankton populations strained out along isopycnal vorticity annuli associated with mesoscale frontal instabilities.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1429-1442
    Number of pages14
    JournalOcean Dynamics
    Issue number11
    Early online date13 Sept 2017
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2017


    • eddies
    • potential vorticity
    • export production
    • instability processes
    • ocean fronts
    • sub-mesoscale filaments


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