Northern Monterey Bay upwelling shadow front: Observations of a coastally and surface-trapped buoyant plume Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • During the upwelling season in central California, northwesterly winds along the coast produce a strong upwelling jet that originates at Point Año Nuevo and flows southward across the mouth of Monterey Bay. A convergent front with a mean temperature change of 3.77 ± 0.29°C develops between the warm interior waters and the cold offshore upwelling jet. To examine the forcing mechanisms driving the location and movement of the upwelling shadow front and its effects on biological communities in northern Monterey Bay, oceanographic conditions were monitored using cross-shelf mooring arrays, drifters, and hydrographic surveys along a 20 km stretch of coast extending northwestward from Santa Cruz, California, during the upwelling season of 2007 (May–September). The alongshore location of the upwelling shadow front at the northern edge of the bay was driven by: regional wind forcing, through an alongshore pressure gradient; buoyancy forces due to the temperature change across the front; and local wind forcing (the diurnal sea breeze). The upwelling shadow front behaved as a surface-trapped buoyant current, which is superimposed on a poleward barotropic current, moving up and down the coast up to several kilometers each day. We surmise that the front is advected poleward by a preexisting northward barotropic current of 0.10 m s?1 that arises due to an alongshore pressure gradient caused by focused upwelling at Point Año Nuevo. The frontal circulation (onshore surface currents) breaks the typical two-dimensional wind-driven, cross-shelf circulation (offshore surface currents) and introduces another way for water, and the material it contains (e.g., pollutants, larvae), to go across the shelf toward shore.

publication date

  • December 10, 2009