OCEANOGRAPHY: Eddy-driven subduction exports particulate organic carbon from the spring bloom

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Abstract

The export of particulate organic carbon (POC) from the surface ocean to depth is traditionally ascribed to sinking. Here, we show that a dynamic eddying flow field subducts surface water with high concentrations of nonsinking POC. Autonomous observations made by gliders during the North Atlantic spring bloom reveal anomalous features at depths of 100 to 350 meters with elevated POC, chlorophyll, oxygen, and temperature-salinity characteristics of surface water. High-resolution modeling reveals that during the spring transition, intrusions of POC-rich surface water descend as coherent, 1- to 10-kilometer-scale filamentous features, often along the perimeter of eddies. Such a submesoscale eddy-driven flux of POC is unresolved in global carbon cycle models but can contribute as much as half of the total springtime export of POC from the highly productive subpolar oceans.

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