The Southern Ocean is characterized by high eddy activity and high particulate organic carbon (POC) content during summer, especially near Antarctica. Because it encircles the globe, it provides a pathway for inter‐basin exchange. Here, we use satellite observations and a high‐resolution ocean model to quantify offshore transport of coastal water rich in POC off the West Antarctic Peninsula. We show that nonlinear cyclonic eddies generated near the coast often trap coastal water rich in POC during formation before propagating offshore. As a result, cyclones found offshore that were generated near the coast have on average higher POC content in their interior than cyclones generated locally offshore. This results in a POC enrichment of 5.7 ± 3.0 Gg C year−1in offshore waters off the Peninsula. Actual POC enrichment is likely substantially larger, since about half of the volume transport of coastal water is driven by small eddies that are missed by observations.
The California Current System is characterized by upwelling and rich mesoscale eddy activity. Cyclonic eddies generally pinch off from meanders in the California Current, potentially trapping upwelled water along the coast and transporting it offshore. Here, we use satellite-derived measurements of particulate organic carbon (POC) as a tracer of coastal water to show that cyclones located offshore that were generated near the coast contain higher carbon concentrations in their interior than cyclones of the same amplitude generated offshore. This indicates that eddies are in fact trapping and transporting coastal water offshore, resulting in an offshore POC enrichment of 20.9 ± 11 Gg year−1. This POC enrichment due to the coastally-generated eddies extends for 1000 km from shore. This analysis provides large-scale observational-based evidence that eddies play a quantitatively important role in the offshore transport of coastal water, substantially widening the area influenced by highly productive upwelled waters in the California Current System.more » « less
- Award ID(s):
- NSF-PAR ID:
- Publisher / Repository:
- Nature Publishing Group
- Date Published:
- Journal Name:
- Nature Communications
- Medium: X
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
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