Publications

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2018
Kahru, M, Jacox MG, Ohman MD.  2018.  CCE1: Decrease in the frequency of oceanic fronts and surface chlorophyll concentration in the California Current System during the 2014-2016 northeast Pacific warm anomalies. Deep-Sea Research Part I-Oceanographic Research Papers. 140:4-13.   10.1016/j.dsr.2018.04.007   AbstractWebsite

Oceanic fronts are sites of increased vertical exchange that are often associated with increased primary productivity, downward flux of organic carbon, and aggregation of plankton and higher trophic levels. Given the influence of fronts on the functioning of marine ecosystems, an improved understanding of the spatial and temporal variability of frontal activity is desirable. Here, we document changes in the frequency of sea-surface fronts and the surface concentration of chlorophyll-a (Chla) in the California Current System that occurred during the Northeast Pacific anomalous warming of 2014-2015 and El Nino of 2015-2016, and place those anomalies in the context of two decades of variability. Frontal frequency was detected with the automated histogram method using datasets of sea-surface temperature (SST) and Chla from multiple satellite sensors. During the anomalous 2014-2016 period, a drop in the frequency of fronts coincided with the largest negative Chla anomalies and positive SST anomalies in the whole period of satellite observations (1997-2017 for Chla and 1982-2017 for SST). These recent reductions in frontal frequency ran counter to a previously reported increasing trend, though it remains to be seen if they represent brief interruptions in that trend or a reversal that will persist going forward.

2012
Landry, MR, Ohman MD, Goericke R, Stukel MR, Barbeau KA, Bundy R, Kahru M.  2012.  Pelagic community responses to a deep-water front in the California Current Ecosystem: overview of the A-Front Study. Journal of Plankton Research. 34:739-748.   10.1093/plankt/fbs025   AbstractWebsite

In October 2008, we investigated pelagic community composition and biomass, from bacteria to fish, across a sharp frontal gradient overlying deep waters south of Point Conception, California. This northsouth gradient, which we called A-Front, was formed by the eastward flow of the California Current and separated cooler mesotrophic waters of coastal upwelling origin to the north, from warm oligotrophic waters of likely mixed subarcticsubtropical origin to the south. Plankton biomass and phytoplankton growth rates were two to three times greater on the northern side, and primary production rates were elevated 5-fold to the north. Compared with either of the adjacent waters, the frontal interface was strongly enriched and uniquely defined by a subsurface bloom of large diatoms, elevated concentrations of suspension-feeding zooplankton, high bioacoustical estimates of pelagic fish and enhanced bacterial production and phytoplankton biomass and photosynthetic potential. Such habitats, though small in areal extent, may contribute disproportionately and importantly to regional productivity, nutrient cycling, carbon fluxes and trophic ecology. As a general introduction to the A-Front study, we provide an overview of its design and implementation, a brief summary of major findings and a discussion of potential mechanisms of plankton enrichment at the front.

Kahru, M, Di Lorenzo E, Manzano-Sarabia M, Mitchell BG.  2012.  Spatial and temporal statistics of sea surface temperature and chlorophyll fronts in the California Current. Journal of Plankton Research. 34:749-760.   10.1093/plankt/fbs010   AbstractWebsite

The statistics of sea-surface fronts detected with the automated histogram method were studied in the California Current using sea-surface temperature (SST) and chlorophyll-a concentration (Chl) images from various satellite sensors. Daily maps of fronts were averaged into monthly composites of front frequency (FF) spanning 29 years (19812009) for SST and 14 years (19972010) for Chl. The large-scale distributions of frontal frequency of both SST (FFsst) and of Chl (FFchl) had a 500700 km wide band of elevated values (47) along the coast that roughly coincided with the area of increased mesoscale eddy activity. FFsst and FFchl were positively correlated at monthly and seasonal frequencies, but the year-to-year variations were not significantly correlated. The long-period (1 year and longer) variability in FFsst is influenced by the large-scale SST gradient, while at shorter timescales the influence of the Coastal Upwelling Index is evident. In contrast with FFsst, FFchl variability is less related to the coherent large-scale forcing and has stronger sensitivity to local forcings in individual areas. Decadal-scale increasing trends in the frequency of both SST and Chl fronts were detected in the Ensenada Front area (general area of the A-Front study) and corresponded to, respectively, trends towards colder SST and increasing chlorophyll-a concentration.