THE ocean has considerable spatial and temporal heterogeneity in biomass and productivity owing in part to the effects of ocean circulation and mixing1,2. Water mass boundaries (fronts) in coastal waters are well-known sites of enhanced biological activity3,4. Comparatively little is known of open-ocean fronts, and one of the few biological studies of an oceanic front showed phytoplankton biomass at only slightly higher densities than in surrounding waters5. Here we present photographs and measurements from satellites, aircraft, ships and the Space Shuttle Atlantis which show dramatic biological responses to circulation and mixing processes associated with an open-ocean front. Breaking waves (whitecaps) caused by water turbulence and mixing, and very dark green water caused by extremely high concentrations (>20 mg of chlorophyll a per m3) of buoyant diatoms (Rhizosolenia sp.) made a distinct line in the sea visible for hundreds of kilometres. The line traced the northern edge of a westward-progagating (50 km per day) tropical instability wave (1,000-km wavelength) delineating the boundary between cold, upwelled waters and warmer waters to the north. High phytoplankton biomass and primary production associated with the extensive diatom patches may explain anecdotal observations of high animal abundance along this frontal boundary.
Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
only $3.83 per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Rent or Buy article
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
All prices are NET prices.
Haury, L. R., McGowan, J. A. & Wiebe, P. H. in Spatial Pattern in Plankton Communities (ed. Steele, J. H.) 277–328 (Plenum, New York, 1977).
Steele, J. H. in The Ecology of the Seas (eds Cushing, D. H. & Walsh, J. J.) 98–115 (Saunders, Philadelphia, 1976).
Yoder, J. A., Atkinson, L. P., Lee, T. N., Kim, H. H. & McClain, C. R. Limnol. Oceanogr. 26, 1103–1110 (1981).
Marra, J., Houghton, R. W. & Garside, C. J. mar. Res. 48, 851–868 (1990).
Fasham, M. J. R., Platt, T., Irwin, B. & Jones, K., Prog. Oceanogr. 14, 129–165 (1985).
Murray, J. W., Barber, R. T., Bacon, M., Roman, M. R. & Feely, R. A. Science (in the press).
Barber, R. T., Murray, J. W. & McCarthy, J. J. Ambio 23, 62–66 (1994).
Legeckis, R. Science 197, 1179–1181 (1977).
Legeckis, R., Pichel, W. & Nesterczuk, G. Bull. Am. met. Soc. 64, 133–139 (1983).
Miller, L., Watts, D. R. & Wimbush, M. J. phys. Oceanogr. 15, 1759–1770 (1985).
Perigaud, C. J. geophys Res. 95, 7239–7248 (1990).
Hoge, F. E., Berry, R. E. & Swift, R. N. Appl. Opt. 25, 39–47 (1986).
Smith R. C. et al. Appl. Opt. 26, 2068–2081 (1987).
Johnson, E. S. & Murray, J. W. A. Meeting Oceanography Soc. Honolulu, Hawaii, 18–22 July (1994).
Villareal, T., Altabet, M. & Culver-Rymsza, K. Nature 363, 709–712 (1993).
Beebe, W. The Arcturus Adventure 45 (Putnam, New York, 1926).
Knauss, J. A. Tellus 9, 234–237 (1957).
Kemp, A. E. S. & Baldauf, J. G. Nature 362, 141–143 (1993).
Kemp, A. E. S., Baldauf, J. G. & Pearce, R. B. Proc. ODP Sci. Res. (in the press).
About this article
Cite this article
Yoder, J., Ackleson, S., Barber, R. et al. A line in the sea. Nature 371, 689–692 (1994). https://doi.org/10.1038/371689a0
Channel‐Trapped Convergence and Divergence of Lateral Velocity in the Pearl River Estuary: Influence of Along‐Estuary Variations of Channel Depth and Width
Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans (2020)
Abrupt shifts of productivity and sea ice regimes at the western Barents Sea slope from the Last Glacial Maximum to the Bølling-Allerød interstadial
Quaternary Science Reviews (2019)
Deep Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers (2019)
A Positive Feedback Onto ENSO Due to Tropical Instability Wave (TIW)-Induced Chlorophyll Effects in the Pacific
Geophysical Research Letters (2019)
Global Observations of Fine-Scale Ocean Surface Topography With the Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) Mission
Frontiers in Marine Science (2019)