Thursday, October 7, 2010

Volcanoes and phytoplankton

I've always thought that the Flood must have been a bonanza for oceanic microorganisms. The ocean seriously heats up, and volcanoes kick out all sorts of interesting useful stuff (like iron). That's exactly what microorganisms love. So when I look at the cliffs of Dover, I think, "That must have been one massive bloom."

There's an interesting new paper by Hamme et al. in Geophysical Research Letters looking at the phytoplankton response to a recent volcanic eruption. Guess what? It was huge. The erupting volcano was Kasatochi in the Aleutians in 2008, and it spewed volcanic ash over a big part of the northeast Pacific. Hamme et al. describe the resulting plankton bloom as "one of the largest phytoplankton blooms observed in the subarctic North Pacific." Cool.

It doesn't really help us explain the cliffs of Dover, since Hamme et al. found that the uptake of CO2 from this event was "modest." It's still an interesting observation, though.  I wonder what increasing the water temperature would do?

Hamme et al. 2010. Volcanic ash fuels anomalous plankton bloom in subarctic northeast Pacific. Geophys Res Lett 37:L19604. doi:10.1029/2010GL044629.

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