Journal article Open Access

Variability of nutrient and thermal structure in surface waters between New Zealand and Antarctica, October 2004-January 2005

Alessandra Campanelli; Serena Massolo; Federica Grilli; Mauro Marini; Elio Paschini; Paola Rivaro; Antonio Artegiani; Stanley S. Jacobs

We describe the upper ocean thermal structure and surface nutrient concentrations between New Zealand and Antarctica along five transects that cross the Subantarctic Front, the Polar Front (PF) and the southern Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) front. The surface water thermal structure is coupled with variations in surface nutrient concentrations, making water masses identifiable by both temperature and nutrient ranges. In particular, a strong latitudinal gradient in orthosilicate concentration is centred at the PF. On the earlier sections that extend south-west from the Campbell Plateau, orthosilicate increases sharply southward from 10–15 to 50–55 µmol l−1 between 58° S and 60° S, while surface temperature drops from 7°C to 2°C. Nitrate increases more regularly toward the south, with concentrations ranging from 10–12 µmol l−1 at 54° S to 25–30 µmol l−1 at 66° S. The same features are observed during the later transects between New Zealand and the Ross Sea, but the sharp silica and surface temperature gradients are shifted between 60° S and 64° S. Both temporal and spatial factors may influence the observed variability. The January transect suggests an uptake of silica, orthophosphate and nitrate between 63° S and 70° S over the intervening month, with an average depletion near 37%, 44% and 29%, respectively. An N/P (nitrite + nitrate/orthophosphate) apparent drawdown ratio of 8.8±4.1 and an Si/N (silicic acid/nitrite + nitrate) apparent drawdown ratio >1 suggest this depletion results from a seasonal diatom bloom. A southward movement of the oceanic fronts between New Zealand and the Ross Sea relative to prior measurements is consistent with reports of recent warming and changes in the ACC.

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