Phenological characteristics of global coccolithophore blooms

Jason Hopkins*, Stephanie A. Henson, Stuart C. Painter, Toby Tyrrell, Alex J. Poulton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Citations (Scopus)


Coccolithophores are recognized as having a significant influence on the global carbon cycle through the production and export of calcium carbonate (often referred to as particulate inorganic carbon or PIC). Using remotely sensed PIC and chlorophyll data, we investigate the seasonal dynamics of coccolithophores relative to a mixed phytoplankton community. Seasonal variability in PIC, here considered to indicate changes in coccolithophore biomass, is identified across much of the global ocean. Blooms, which typically start in February-March in the low-latitude (∼30°) Northern Hemisphere and last for ∼6-7 months, get progressively later (April-May) and shorter (3-4 months) moving poleward. A similar pattern is observed in the Southern Hemisphere, where blooms that generally begin around August-September in the lower latitudes and which last for ∼8 months get later and shorter with increasing latitude. It has previously been considered that phytoplankton blooms consist of a sequential succession of blooms of individual phytoplankton types. Comparison of PIC and chlorophyll peak dates suggests instead that in many open ocean regions, blooms of coccolithophores and other phytoplankton can co-occur, conflicting with the traditional view of species succession that is thought to take place in temperate regions such as the North Atlantic.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)239-253
Number of pages15
JournalGlobal Biogeochemical Cycles
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2015


  • bloom
  • coccolithophore
  • particulate inorganic carbon
  • phenology
  • remote sensing
  • succession

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Atmospheric Science
  • General Environmental Science
  • Environmental Chemistry


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