Plankton Boom: Cyclone Oma Spawns Ocean Life In The South Pacific

"NASA-NOAA's Suomi NPP Satellite Captures Night-time Look at Cyclone Felleng - Photo by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center at flickr"

Plankton Boom: Cyclone Oma Spawns Ocean Life In The South Pacific

According to recent research, Cyclone Oma from 2019 left a lot of debris, including substantial plankton blooms.

Researchers discovered that, in a few instances, cyclones might spawn a significant number of upper ocean life in otherwise lifeless ocean regions. It is thought that this occurrence happens just once every 1500 years, as was the case with Cyclone Oma in 2019, which tore over the Coral Sea.

Scientists discovered plankton blooms when a cyclone sits stationary over a particular water area for an extended period. This is because the storm’s eye’s winds begin to raise water from the ocean’s depths. The result is an explosion of plankton due to these nutrient-rich deep waters.

Dr. Pete Russell of the Department of Marine Science at the University of Otago and Dr. Christopher Horvat of the Department of Physics at the University of Auckland conducted the research. Geophysical Research Letters, a publication, has published the findings.

According to Russell:

“While Oma was a relatively benign cyclone, it produced a massive phytoplankton bloom in its wake, the single most abnormal event in the history of South Pacific chlorophyll measurements. Such an extreme event can produce a large amount of biomass in a part of the ocean that is typically a biological desert.”

“We don’t yet know about the fate of this biomass, but one possibility is that it could end up on the bottom of the ocean, sequestering carbon. Cyclones are one of the mechanisms that dissipate heat from the tropics. Warming oceans mean more heat to dissipate. This means more intense storms and perhaps longer storm seasons resulting in more storms.”

“By examining sediment cores from the last inter-glacial period, we may get a heads up on what cyclone activity to expect with ocean temperatures 1+ degrees higher than today.”

While Horvat added:

“These cyclones can do amazing things – other than have strong winds, they can also dramatically affect the plants and animals living in the upper ocean and change the cycling of carbon by leading to blooms. Along with these bloom events in the open ocean, cyclone activity results in both coastal upwelling and runoff from the land that also deliver nutrients into the photic zone, generating blooms. These blooms could be an integral part of the local marine ecosystems of our Pacific neighbours supporting higher food chains.”

The original study is available here.

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