NCEAS Product 13301

Barton, Andrew D.; Greene, Charles H.; Monger, Bruce; Pershing, Andrew J. 2003. The Continuous Plankton Recorder survey and the North Atlantic Oscillation: Interannual- to multidecadal-scale patterns of phytoplankton variability in the North Atlantic Ocean. Progress in Oceanography. Vol: 58(2). Pages 337-358. (Abstract) (Online version)


At interannual to multidecadal time scales, much of the oceanographic and climatic variability in the North Atlantic Ocean can be associated with the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). While evidence suggests that there is a relationship between the NAO and zooplankton dynamics in the North Atlantic Ocean, the phytoplankton response to NAO-induced changes in the environment is less clear. Time series of monthly mean phytoplankton colour values, as compiled by the Continuous Plankton Recorder (CPR) survey, are analysed to infer relationships between the NAO and phytoplankton dynamics throughout the North Atlantic Ocean. While a few areas display highly significant (p < 0.05) trends in the CPR colour time series during the period 1948–2000, nominally significant (p < 0.20) positive trends are widespread across the basin, particularly on the continental shelves and in a transition zone stretching across the Central North Atlantic. When long-term trends are removed from both the NAO index and CPR colour time series, the correlation between them ceases to be significant. Several hypotheses are proposed to explain the observed variability in the CPR colour and its relationship with climate in the North Atlantic.