Atmospheric forcing, which is known to have a strong influence on surface ocean dynamics and production, is typically not considered in studies of the deep sea. Our observations and models demonstrate an unexpected influence of surface-generated mesoscale eddies in the transport of hydrothermal vent efflux and of vent larvae away from the northern East Pacific Rise. Transport by these deep-reaching eddies provides a mechanism for spreading the hydrothermal chemical and heat flux into the deep-ocean interior and for dispersing propagules hundreds of kilometers between isolated and ephemeral communities. Because the eddies interacting with the East Pacific Rise are formed seasonally and are sensitive to phenomena such as El Niño, they have the potential to introduce seasonal to interannual atmospheric variations into the deep sea.
Surface-generated mesoscale eddies transport deep-sea products from hydrothermal vents
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