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Compound high-temperature and low-chlorophyll extremes in the ocean over the satellite period

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Le Grix Natacha, Zscheischler Jakob, Laufkötter Charlotte, Rousseaux Cecile S., Frölicher Thomas L.,
Project New metrics for constraining multiple drivers of hazard and compound hazards
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Biogeosciences
Volume (Issue) 18(6)
Page(s) 2119 - 2137
Title of proceedings Biogeosciences
DOI 10.5194/bg-18-2119-2021

Open Access

Type of Open Access Publisher (Gold Open Access)


Abstract. Extreme events in the ocean severely impact marine organisms and ecosystems. Of particular concern are compound events, i.e., when conditions are extreme for multiple potential ocean ecosystem stressors such as temperature and chlorophyll. Yet, little is known about the occurrence, intensity, and duration of such compound high-temperature (a.k.a. marine heatwaves – MHWs) and low-chlorophyll (LChl) extreme events, whether their distributions have changed in the past decades, and what the potential drivers are. Here we use satellite-based sea surface temperature and chlorophyll concentration estimates to provide a first assessment of such compound extreme events. We reveal hotspots of compound MHW and LChl events in the equatorial Pacific, along the boundaries of the subtropical gyres, in the northern Indian Ocean, and around Antarctica. In these regions, compound events that typically last 1 week occur 3 to 7 times more often than expected under the assumption of independence between MHWs and LChl events. The occurrence of compound MHW and LChl events varies on seasonal to interannual timescales. At the seasonal timescale, most compound events occur in summer in both hemispheres. At the interannual timescale, the frequency of compound MHW and LChl events is strongly modulated by large-scale modes of natural climate variability such as the El Niño–Southern Oscillation, whose positive phase is associated with increased compound event occurrence in the eastern equatorial Pacific and in the Indian Ocean by a factor of up to 4. Our results provide a first understanding of where, when, and why compound MHW and LChl events occur. Further studies are needed to identify the exact physical and biological drivers of these potentially harmful events in the ocean and their evolution under global warming.