The influence of variable slope-water characteristics on dissolved oxygen levels in the northern California Current System

Scott M. Durski, John A. Barth, James C. McWilliams, Hartmut Frenzel, Curtis Deutsch

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11 Scopus citations


Observations have suggested a trend of decreasing dissolved oxygen (DO) and increasing spiciness in summertime middepth slope waters and bottom shelf waters along the United States west coast over the past 50 years, but they have also demonstrated a large amount of interannual and decadal variability. Shelf bottom water and slope water properties can be influenced by both local and remote effects, including changes in circulation or changes in the characteristics of the source waters supplying the region. A regional-scale, coupled physical biogeochemical model has been developed to simulate seasonal-to-decadal scale variability along the US west coast to discern the physical dynamics behind these spatial and temporal patterns. A simulation run from 1981 to 2006 with forcing that incorporates the larger scale interannual trends reproduces the development of low DO late in the upwelling season, the considerable interannual variability and the reported tendency toward a shoaling, more spicy, and oxygen-depleted, northern California Undercurrent (CU). Whereas the trend in spiciness in the model results from increased influence of equatorial relative to subarctic source waters, the decreases in DO are found to additionally be a consequence of local biogeochemical processes. In order to better understand the interannual variability, years of the simulation were classified into four groups based on intensity of upwelling forcing and undercurrent strength. Slope water characteristics, shelf-slope exchange, and slope-basin exchange were compared across the four cases. Years with both strong upwelling and a strong undercurrent generated the most negative anomalies in slope-water DO late in the upwelling season.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7674-7697
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2017
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Oceanography


  • California Undercurrent
  • coastal hypoxia
  • coastal upwelling
  • northern California Current System
  • slope-shelf exchange


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