Related Research Areas
Carbon Cycle & Ecosystems, Climate Variability & Change

How climate variability and change affects life on Earth is one of the driving questions in Earth science. It is the fundamental motivation for NASA’s Earth science program. Ocean phytoplankton are the basis upon which nearly all ocean life is built. They are especially sensitive to climate change because they are incapable of significant motility, and thus unable to avoid many of climate’s consequences. The diversity of ocean phytoplankton populations adds a new dimension to climate change, since the many types of phytoplankton have different environmental responses and requirements. The different populations also play different roles in the carbon cycle. We propose to investigate the changes in ocean phytoplankton population structure in a changing climate using the GISS and GMAO climate models. Our efforts involve coupling an established ocean biogeochemical model within these climate model frameworks. The coupled biogeochemical/climate model simulations will span interannual through decadal to century time scales, incorporating hindcast atmospheric forcing for interannual and decadal scales, and realistic forecasts for decadal to century scales. Decadal forecasts from both the GISS and GMAO models will be intercompared. This will provide an estimate of the forecast uncertainties given a common ocean biogeochemical model. Validation with existing in situ data sets and emerging satellite estimates of population structure will be as comprehensive as possible, involving rigorous statistical analyses. We will investigate changes in phytoplankton population abundance, and related effects on carbon uptake (primary production). Again, rigorous comparisons with in situ and satellite estimates will be performed. Further advances will include new processes, specifically alkalinity and the phytoplankton-group-specific effects on ocean heat structure. When implemented, these additional processes will enable us to evaluate the effects of ocean acidification and second order physical-biological interactions in the oceans as a function of changing climate.

PI: Watson Gregg/NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Global Modeling and Assimilation Office NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Greenbelt, MD 20771

Phone: 301-614-5711

Email: Watson.Gregg at


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Started: Aug 10, 2010

Last Activity: Dec 07, 2010


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