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In the western North Pacific subtropical ocean, the Anatahan volcano of the Mariana Islands erupted on 10 May 2003 for the first time in recorded history. Based on nine different types of remote sensing data provided by NASA, laboratory experiment of the Anatahan samples, and a 3-D ocean circulation model developed by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, the postvolcanic ocean biogeochemical response to the Anatahan eruption was explored. It was observed that soon after the eruption, the aerosol optical depth abruptly increased from the pre-eruption loading of ∼0.1 to ∼2. In the week following the eruption, a “bloom-like” patch was observed by NASA's Aqua Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) ocean color sensor. Based on the chlorophyll a, fluorescence line height (FLH), at-sensor total radiance, and normalized water-leaving radiance data obtained by MODIS, the cause of the bloom-like patch was diagnosed. The results suggest that the patch was most likely a mixture of suspended volcanic particles and a phytoplankton bloom. FLH was found to be ∼9–17 × 10−3 mW cm−2μm−1 sr−1 in the patch and ∼3–5 × 10−3 mW cm−2μm−1 sr−1 in the ambient water, indicating that a 2–5-fold increase in biological activity occurred during the week following the eruption. Satellite altimetry indicated that the bloom took place in the presence of downwelling and was not a result of upwelled nutrients in this oligotrophic ocean. Analysis of satellite ocean color spectra of the bloom region found similar spectra as the reference Trichodesmium spectra. Laboratory experiments further substantiate the satellite observations which show elevated concentrations of limiting nutrients provided by the Anatahan samples, and the averaged soluble nitrate, phosphate, and Fe were 42, 3.1, and 2.0 nM, respectively. Though it was not possible to obtain in situ observations of the ocean biogeochemical responses that followed the Anatahan eruption, this study provided evidence based on remote sensing data and laboratory experiment that fertilization of volcanic aerosols occurred following this eruption in one of the most oligotrophic low-nutrient low-chlorophyll ocean deserts on Earth.

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Global Biochemical Cycles, v. 25, issue 1, art. GB1006

©2011. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.

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