Surface boundary-layer variability off Northern California, USA, during upwelling

Dever, EP, Dorman CE, Largier JL.  2006.  Surface boundary-layer variability off Northern California, USA, during upwelling. Deep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography. 53:2887-2905.


A five-element mooring array is used to study surface boundary-layer transport over the Northern California shelf from May to August 2001. In this region, upwelling favorable winds increase in strength offshore, leading to a strong positive wind stress curl. We examine the cross-shelf variation in surface Ekman transport calculated from the wind stress and the actual surface boundary-layer transport estimated from oceanic observations. The two quantities are highly correlated with a regression slope near one. Both the Ekman transport and surface boundary layer transport imply curl-driven upwelling rates of about 3×10−4 m s−1 between the 40 and 90 m isobaths (1.5 and 11.0 km from the coast, respectively) and curl-driven upwelling rates about 1.5×10−4m s−1 between the 90 and 130 m isobaths (11.0 and 28.4 km from the coast, respectively). Thus curl-driven upwelling extends to at least 25 km from the coast. In contrast, upwelling driven by the adjustment to the coastal boundary condition occurs primarily inshore of the 40-m isobath. The upwelling rates implied by the differentiating the 40-m transport observations with the coastal boundary condition are up to 8×10−4 m s−1. The estimated upwelling rates and the temperature–nitrate relationship imply curl-driven vertical nitrate flux divergences are about half of those driven by coastal boundary upwelling.