Oceanography

An Increase in Productivity

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Science  30 Sep 2011:
Vol. 333, Issue 6051, pp. 1802
DOI: 10.1126/science.333.6051.1802-a
CREDIT: IMAGE ENHANCED (PHOTO SOURCE) © LEE THOMAS/ALAMY

One of the most dramatic consequences of recent global warming has been the rapid and large reduction of summertime sea ice in the Arctic Ocean. The seasonal disappearance of so much ice exposed huge expanses of the ocean that were previously covered, and creates the possibility for greater marine productivity in the regions newly exposed to sunlight. Solar irradiation alone is not sufficient to cause increased biological productivity, of course: There also must be an adequate supply of nutrients to fuel it. Tremblay et al. used a combination of in situ and remote observations to show that new productivity in the Arctic coastal Beaufort Sea has increased because of climate warming there, and that the nutrients needed to fuel that new production are derived from deep waters that have upwelled in response to the stronger winds and reductions in summertime sea-ice coverage caused by climate change. Further increases in the amounts of new production can be expected as increasingly deep and frequent seaward retreat of the ice pack and stronger winds occur.

Geophys. Res. Lett. 38, L18604 (2011).

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