01 Apr 2021

01 Apr 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal OS.

Wind driven upwelling and surface nutrient delivery in a semi-enclosed coastal sea

Ben Moore-Maley and Susan E. Allen Ben Moore-Maley and Susan E. Allen
  • Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, University of British Columbia, 2207 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada

Abstract. Wind driven upwelling is an important control on surface nutrients and water properties in stratified lakes and seas. In this study, a high resolution biophysical coupled model is used to investigate upwelling in the Strait of Georgia. The model is forced with surface winds from a high resolution atmospheric forecast and reproduces extensive observations of water level, temperature, salinity, nutrients and chlorophyll with competitive skill relative to similar models of the study region. Five years of hourly surface nitrate and temperature are analyzed in order to characterize the dominant upwelling patterns of the basin. An along-axis wind climatology steered by mountainous topography produces episodic upwelling along the western shore during the spring and fall southeasterlies and along the eastern shore during the summer northwesterlies, as indicated by positive nitrate anomalies. Principal component analysis reveals that these cross-axis upwelling patterns account for nearly one-third of the surface nitrate variance during the productive season. By contrast, nearly half of the surface temperature variance over the same period is dominated by a single mixing-heating pattern. The principal components associated with these patterns correlate with wind stress in a manner consistent with these physical interpretations. The cross-axis upwelling response to wind is similar to other dynamically wide basins where the baroclinic Rossby deformation radius is smaller than the basin width. However, the nitrate anomaly during upwelling along the eastern shore is stronger in the northern basin, which may be indicative of an along-axis pycnocline tilt or an effect of the background along-axis stratification gradient due to the Fraser River. Our findings highlight an important spatio-temporal consideration for future ecosystem monitoring.

Ben Moore-Maley and Susan E. Allen

Status: open (until 27 May 2021)

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Ben Moore-Maley and Susan E. Allen

Data sets

SalishSeaCast ERDDAP server SalishSeaCast development team

Ben Moore-Maley and Susan E. Allen


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Short summary
Inland seas are critical habitats for globally important fisheries, and the local food webs that support these fisheries are often limited by surface nutrient availability. In the Strait of Georgia, which supports several key north Pacific fisheries, we identify wind driven upwelling as a dominant source of summer surface nutrients using a high-resolution, coupled ecosystem model. This new underlying mechanism will reform interpretations of ecosystem variability in the region.