Chlorophyll bloom enhanced by a mesoscale eddy in the western South China Sea

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Remote sensing of ocean color is used to detect phytoplankton blooms and oceanic eddies. In this study, satellite remote sensing was used to detect an eddylike phytoplankton bloom in the western South China Sea in early September, 2007. The eddy-like phytoplankton bloom formed in the middle of August, before the formation of a cyclonic eddy. The time series reveals a lag period of about 1 week between maximum chlorophyll (Chl a) and maximum eddy intensity. This lag may have been related to the Mekong River discharge and its subsequent mixing by the cyclonic eddy. The spatial distribution of the bloom was characterized by a jet of high Chl a. Our data provide evidence that a significant proportion of south-westerly monsoon driven nutrients are used by phytoplankton. We also determined that phytoplankton blooms may support the large-scale advective spreading of high biomass waters to the open ocean by large surface currents. These biomass rich waters are probably important in the food chain dynamics of the outer south-eastern shelf and the coral islands or atolls in the open ocean.

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Frontiers of Earth Science