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Article in Geosciences: Validation of Stratification-Driven Phytoplankton Biomass and Nutrient Concentrations in the Northeast Atlantic Ocean as Simulated by EC-Earth | Ocean Ecosystems

21 October 2019

Authors: Nomikos Skyllas, Richard Bintanja, Anita G. J. Buma, Corina P. D. Brussaard, Matthias Gröger, Jenny Hieronymus and Willem H. van de Poll

Geosciences 2019, 9(10), 450;


We validated simulations of the Earth system model (ESM) EC-Earth-NEMO of present-day temperature, salinity, nutrient, and chlorophyll a profiles with in situ observations in the Northeast Atlantic Ocean (29–63º N). Simulations with standard parametrization (run 1) and improved parametrization of vertical mixing (run 2) were compared. Run 1 showed shallower mixed layer depths (MLDs) in spring as compared to observations owing to lower salinities in the upper 200 m of the subpolar North Atlantic (>55º N). This coincided with a mismatch with observed timing and magnitude of the phytoplankton spring bloom. In contrast, the model performed well south of 55º N. Run 2 showed improved springtime MLD, phytoplankton dynamics, and nutrient distributions in the subpolar North Atlantic.

Our study underlines the sensitivity of subpolar North Atlantic phytoplankton blooms to surface freshening, suggesting that future fresh-water inflow from Arctic and Greenland Ice sheet melting could significantly affect phytoplankton productivity. These findings contribute to the generic validation of the EC-Earth ESM and underline the need for rigorous validation of physics-biology links, in particular the sub polar North Atlantic where complex seasonal stratification/vertical mixing processes govern upper ocean phytoplankton productivity.

Keywords: North Atlantic; Earth system models; EC-Earth; NEMO; PISCES; carbon cycle; phytoplankton; Stratiphyt; model validation; stratification; nutrients; chlorophyll a; mixed layer depth.

More information

Read full article at MDPI.

Last modified:19 July 2022 4.29 p.m.

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