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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015 May 12;112(19):5921-6. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1416884112. Epub 2015 Apr 20.

Amplified Arctic warming by phytoplankton under greenhouse warming.

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Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, D-20146 Hamburg, Germany;
School of Environmental Science and Engineering, Pohang University of Science and Technology, Pohang 790-784, South Korea;
Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, D-20146 Hamburg, Germany; Uni Climate, Uni Research & Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research, NO-5007 Bergen, Norway;
Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, D-20146 Hamburg, Germany; School of Integrated Climate system sciences, University of Hamburg, D-20146 Hamburg, Germany; and.
Korea Institute of Ocean Science and Technology, Ansan 426-744, South Korea.


Phytoplankton have attracted increasing attention in climate science due to their impacts on climate systems. A new generation of climate models can now provide estimates of future climate change, considering the biological feedbacks through the development of the coupled physical-ecosystem model. Here we present the geophysical impact of phytoplankton, which is often overlooked in future climate projections. A suite of future warming experiments using a fully coupled ocean-atmosphere model that interacts with a marine ecosystem model reveals that the future phytoplankton change influenced by greenhouse warming can amplify Arctic surface warming considerably. The warming-induced sea ice melting and the corresponding increase in shortwave radiation penetrating into the ocean both result in a longer phytoplankton growing season in the Arctic. In turn, the increase in Arctic phytoplankton warms the ocean surface layer through direct biological heating, triggering additional positive feedbacks in the Arctic, and consequently intensifying the Arctic warming further. Our results establish the presence of marine phytoplankton as an important potential driver of the future Arctic climate changes.


Arctic climate changes; biogeophysical feedback; phytoplankton−climate interaction

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