Robotic observations of dust storm enhancement of carbon biomass in the North Pacific

Science. 2002 Oct 25;298(5594):817-21. doi: 10.1126/science.1074961.


Two autonomous robotic profiling floats deployed in the subarctic North Pacific on 10 April 2001 provided direct records of carbon biomass variability from surface to 1000 meters below surface at daily and diurnal time scales. Eight months of real-time data documented the marine biological response to natural events, including hydrographic changes, multiple storms, and the April 2001 dust event. High-frequency observations of upper ocean particulate organic carbon variability show a near doubling of biomass in the mixed layer over a 2-week period after the passage of a cloud of Gobi desert dust. The temporal evolution of particulate organic carbon enhancement and an increase in chlorophyll use efficiency after the dust storm suggest a biotic response to a natural iron fertilization by the dust.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Atmosphere / chemistry
  • Biomass*
  • Carbon / analysis*
  • Chlorophyll / analysis
  • Dust*
  • Geologic Sediments / chemistry
  • Iron / analysis
  • Pacific Ocean
  • Photosynthesis
  • Phytoplankton / growth & development*
  • Robotics
  • Seawater*
  • Wind*


  • Dust
  • Chlorophyll
  • Carbon
  • Iron