Intermittency in phytoplankton bloom triggered by modulations in vertical stability

Sci Rep. 2021 Jan 14;11(1):1285. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-80331-z.


Seasonal surface chlorophyll (SChl) blooms are very chaotic in nature, but traditional bloom paradigms have climbed out of these subseasonal variations. Here we highlight the leading order role of wind bursts, by conjoining two decades of satellite SChl with atmospheric reanalysis in the Northwestern Mediterranean Sea. We demonstrate that weekly SChl fluctuations are in phase with weekly changes in wind stress and net heat flux during the intial state of the bloom in winter and early spring, thus expanding the convection shutdown hypothesis of bloom onset to subseasonal timescales. We postulate that the mechanism reflected by this link is intermittency in vertical stability due to short-term episodes of calm weather in winter or to stormy conditions in early spring, leading to short-term variations in light exposure or to events of vertical dilution. This strong intermittency in phytoplankton bloom may probably have important consequences on carbon export and trophic web structure and should not be overlooked.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Chlorophyll / metabolism
  • Eutrophication
  • Mediterranean Sea
  • Phytoplankton / physiology*
  • Seasons
  • Wind


  • Chlorophyll