Temporal variability of chlorophyll distribution in the Gulf of Mexico: bio-optical data from profiling floats
- 1Departamento de Oceanografía Fisica, Centro de Investigación Científica y de Educación Superior de Ensenada, Ensenada, 22860, Mexico
- 2Instituto de Investigaciones Oceanológicas, Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Carretera Ensenada-Tijuana No. 3917, Fraccionamiento Playitas, C.P. 22860, Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico
Abstract. Chlorophyll concentration is a key oceanic biogeochemical variable. In the Gulf of Mexico (GOM), its distribution, which is mainly obtained from satellite surface observations and scarce in situ experiments, is still poorly understood. In 2011–2012, eight profiling floats equipped with biogeochemical sensors were deployed for the first time in the GOM and generated an unprecedented dataset that significantly increased the number of chlorophyll vertical distribution measurements in the region. The analysis of these data, once calibrated, permits us to reconsider the spatial and temporal variability of the chlorophyll concentration in the water column. At a seasonal scale, results confirm the surface signal seen by satellites, presenting maximum concentrations in winter and low values in summer. It is shown that the deepening of the mixed layer is the primary factor triggering the chlorophyll surface increase in winter. In the GOM, a possible interpretation is that this surface increase corresponds to a biomass increase. However, the present dataset suggests that the basin-scale climatological surface increase in chlorophyll content results from a vertical redistribution of subsurface chlorophyll and/or photoacclimation processes, rather than a net increase of biomass. One plausible explanation for this is the decoupling between the mixed-layer depth and the deep nutrient reservoir since mixed-layer depth only reaches the nitracline in sporadic events in the observations. Float measurements also provide evidence that the depth and the magnitude of the deep chlorophyll maximum is strongly controlled by the mesoscale variability, with higher chlorophyll biomass generally observed in cyclones rather than anticyclones.