Articles | Volume 6, issue 3
22 Sep 2010
 | 22 Sep 2010

Trends in coastal upwelling intensity during the late 20th century

N. Narayan, A. Paul, S. Mulitza, and M. Schulz

Abstract. This study presents linear trends of coastal upwelling intensity in the later part of the 20th century (1960–2001) employing various indices of upwelling, derived from meridional wind stress and sea surface temperature. The analysis was conducted in the four major coastal upwelling regions in the world, which are off North-West Africa, Lüderitz, California and Peru. The trends in meridional wind stress showed a steady increase of intensity from 1960–2001, which was also reflected in the SST index calculated for the same time period. The steady cooling observed in the instrumental records of SST off California substantiated this observation further. It was also noted that the trends in meridional wind stress obtained from different datasets differ substantially from each other. Correlation analysis showed that basin-scale oscillations like the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) could not be directly linked to the observed increase of upwelling intensity off NW Africa and California respectively. The relationship of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) with coastal upwelling off NW Africa turned out to be ambiguous due to a negative correlation between the NAO index and the meridional wind stress and a lack of correlation with the SST index. Our results give additional support to the hypothesis that the coastal upwelling intensity increases globally because of raising greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere and an associated increase of the land-sea pressure gradient and meridional wind stress.