In summer and autumn 2010, a highly anomalous phytoplankton bloom, with chlorophyll concentration more than double that of previous years, was observed in the Irminger Basin, southwest of Iceland. Two unusual events occurred during 2010 which had the potential to promote the unusual bloom. First, in spring 2010, the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland erupted, depositing large quantities of tephra into the subpolar North Atlantic. Second, during the winter of 2009/2010 the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) became extremely negative, developing into the second strongest negative NAO on record. Hydrographic conditions were highly anomalous in the region, with an influx of freshwater spreading through the basin, and unusual nutrient and mixed layer depth conditions. Here we use a combination of satellite, modeled and in situ data to investigate whether the input of iron from the volcanic eruption or change in hydrographic conditions due to the extreme negative NAO were responsible for the anomalous phytoplankton bloom. We conclude that changes in physical forcing driven by the NAO, and not the volcanic eruption, stimulated the unusual bloom.
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