Lagged effect of Southern Annular Mode on chlorophyll-a in the mid-latitude South Pacific and Indian Oceans

Jae Seung Yoon, Keyhong Park, Jisoo Park, Taewook Park, Tae Wook Kim

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This study investigates the influence of the Southern Annular Mode (SAM) on chlorophyll-a (Chl-a) concentrations and the underlying mechanisms governing their associated environmental variations in the mid-latitude (35-50° S) ocean from 1998 to 2021. The intensification of westerly winds during positive SAM phases influences meridional water transport and mixed layer depth (MLD), which are both critical factors that affect surface nutrient availability. A marked contrast in the relationship between the meridional current anomaly and the SAM was observed, with reduced northward transport of nutrient-rich water in regions north of 50° S during positive SAM phases. This reduction could be attributed to the poleward migration of the westerly winds, which impeded the meridional current from reaching the mid-latitudes. The relationship between SAM and MLD south of 50° S was positive whereas that in the mid-latitude eastern (60-110° E) South Indian Ocean and eastern (90-140° W) South Pacific Ocean was negative or weak. The immediate effect of a more positive SAM on Chl-a in the mid-latitude ocean was reduced productivity caused by enhanced nutrient depletion. However, in the mid-latitude eastern South Pacific Ocean, the northward migration of the zonal mean meridional current anomaly closely aligned with the lagged correlation pattern between SAM variability and Chl-a over time, suggesting that the delayed northward transport of nutrient-rich waters may partially counterbalance the immediate effects of the SAM on ocean productivity. This mechanism was not present in the mid-latitude eastern South Indian Ocean, implying that future climate change may variably affect these regions. Our findings emphasize the importance of considering regional differences and temporal lags when evaluating the influence of SAM variability on ocean productivity and nutrient dynamics in the context of climate change.

Original languageEnglish
Article number044032
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2024 Apr 1

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 The Author(s). Published by IOP Publishing Ltd.


  • atmospheric circulation
  • chlorophyll-a
  • South Indian Ocean
  • South Pacific Ocean
  • Southern Annular Mode

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • General Environmental Science
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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