Tropical cyclones (hurricanes and typhoons) are the most extreme episodic weather event affecting subtropical and temperate oceans. Hurricanes generate intense surface cooling and vertical mixing in the upper ocean, resulting in nutrient upwelling into the photic zone and episodic phytoplankton blooms. However, their influence on the deep ocean is unknown.
In October 2016, Category 3 Hurricane Nicole passed over the Bermuda time-series site (Oceanic Flux Program (OFP) and Bermuda Atlantic Time-Series site (BATS)) in the oligotrophic NW Atlantic Ocean. In a recent study published in Geophysical Research Letters, authors synthesized multidisciplinary data from hydrographic and phytoplankton measurements and lipid composition of sinking and suspended particles collected from OFP and BATS, respectively, after Hurricane Nicole in 2016. After the hurricane passed, particulate fluxes of lipids diagnostic of fresh phytodetritus, zooplankton, and microbial biomass increased by 30-300% at 1500 m depth and 30-800% at 3200 m depth (Figure 1a). In addition, mesopelagic suspended particles were enriched in phytodetrital material, as well as zooplankton- and bacteria-sourced lipids (Figure 1b), indicating particle disaggregation and a deep-water ecosystem response.
These results suggest that carbon export and biogeochemical cycles may be impacted by climate-induced changes in hurricane frequency, intensity, and tracks, and, underscore the sensitivity of deep ocean ecosystems to climate perturbations.
Rut Pedrosa-Pamies (Marine Biological Laboratory)
Maureen H. Conte (Bermuda Institute of Ocean Science and Marine Biological Laboratory)
JC Weber (Marine Biological Laboratory)
Rodney Johnson (Bermuda Institute of Ocean Science)