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A coupled biophysical model is used to examine the impact of changes in sea ice and snow cover and nutrient availability on the formation of massive under-ice phytoplankton blooms (MUPBs) in the Chukchi Sea of the Arctic Ocean over the period 1988–2013. The model is able to reproduce the basic features of the ICESCAPE (Impacts of Climate on EcoSystems and Chemistry of the Arctic Pacific Environment) observed MUPB during July 2011. The simulated MUPBs occur every year during 1988–2013, mainly in between mid-June and mid-July. While the simulated under-ice blooms of moderate magnitude are widespread in the Chukchi Sea, MUPBs are less so. On average, the area fraction of MUPBs in the ice-covered areas of the Chukchi Sea during June and July is about 8%, which has been increasing at a rate of 2% yr–1 over 1988–2013. The simulated increase in the area fraction as well as primary productivity and chlorophyll a biomass is linked to an increase in light availability, in response to a decrease in sea ice and snow cover, and an increase in nutrient availability in the upper 100 m of the ocean, in conjunction with an intensification of ocean circulation. Simulated MUPBs are temporally sporadic and spatially patchy because of strong spatiotemporal variations of light and nutrient availability. However, as observed during ICESCAPE, there is a high likelihood that MUPBs may form at the shelf break, where the model simulates enhanced nutrient concentration that is seldom depleted between mid-June and mid-July because of generally robust shelf-break upwelling and other dynamic ocean processes. The occurrence of MUPBs at the shelf break is more frequent in the past decade than in the earlier period because of elevated light availability there. It may be even more frequent in the future if the sea ice and snow cover continues to decline such that light is more available at the shelf break to further boost the formation of MUPBs there.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.