Sensors detect biological change in mid-latitude North Pacific



High temporal and spatial resolution ocean color data for the global ocean were collected for January–June 1997 by the Ocean Color and Temperature Scanner (OCTS) from the Japanese ADEOS satellite and for September 1997 to the present by the Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view sensor (SeaWiFS). These sensors show the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre characterized by surface chlorophyll less than 0.15 mg/m3, while to the north, the Transition Zone and Subarctic Gyre exhibit surface chlorophyll in excess of 0.25 mg/m3 (Figure 1).

The boundary between the low and high chlorophyll domains can be characterized by the 0.2 mg/m3 chlorophyll contour line (Figure l). This boundary is termed the Transition Zone Chlorophyll Front (TZCF) because it moves seasonally between the southern and northern limits of the Transition Zone, coinciding with the convergence of cool, vertically mixed, high chlorophyll water found to the north with warmer, stratified, low chlorophyll water on the south. In addition to simply marking the separation between high and low chlorophyll regions, the TZCF is used as a migratory and forage habitat by apex predators including sea turtles and tunas [Polovina et al., 2000].