Hindcasts of potential harmful algal bloom transport pathways on the Pacific Northwest coast

Giddings, SN, MacCready P, Hickey BM, Banas NS, Davis KA, Siedlecki SA, Trainer VL, Kudela RM, Pelland NA, Connolly TP.  2014.  Hindcasts of potential harmful algal bloom transport pathways on the Pacific Northwest coast. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans. 119:2439–2461.


algal bloom, harmful algae, numerical simulations, Pacific Northwest, particle tracking, transport


Harmful algal blooms (HABs) pose a significant threat to human and marine organism health, and negatively impact coastal economies around the world. An improved understanding of HAB formation and transport is required to improve forecasting skill. A realistic numerical simulation of the US Pacific Northwest region is used to investigate transport pathways from known HAB formation hot spots, specifically for Pseudo-nitzschia (Pn), to the coast. We show that transport pathways are seasonal, with transport to the Washington (WA) coast from a northern source (the Juan de Fuca Eddy) during the summer/fall upwelling season and from a southern source (Heceta Bank) during the winter/early spring due to the predominant wind-driven currents. Interannual variability in transport from the northern source is related to the degree of wind intermittency with more transport during years with more frequent relaxation/downwelling events. The Columbia River plume acts to mitigate transport to the coast as the plume front blocks onshore transport. The plume's influence on alongshore transport is variable although critical in aiding transport from the southern source to the WA coast via plume entrainment. Overall transport from our simulations captures most observed Pn HAB beach events from 2004 to 2007 (characterized by Pseudo-nitzschia cell abundance); however, numerous false positives occur. We show that incorporating phytoplankton biomass results from a coupled biogeochemical model reduces the number of false positives significantly and thus improves our Pn HAB predictions.