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The Bottom Boundary Layer Over the Northern California Shelf

Steven J. LentzWoods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts

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John H. TrowbridgeWoods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts

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Abstract

Moored temperature and shipboard CTD observations from a northern California coastal upwelling region reveal variable bottom mixed-layer heights that are typically 5–15 m, but occasionally exceed 50 m. Observations from Oregon, northern California, and Peru, indicate that in coastal upwelling regions, maximum bottom mixed-layer heights tend to increase with water depth over the shelf, but rarely exceed half the water depth. Over the northern California shelf the bottom mixed-layer height is shown to depend on the stratification, the current magnitude, and the current direction. The dependence on current direction tends to dominate the response, with thicker bottom mixed layers during poleward flows and thinner bottom mixed layers during equatorward flows. This asymmetric response to poleward and equatorward currents is consistent with model results which indicate that the asymmetric response is due to the up- or downslope Ekman transport of buoyancy along the bottom.

Abstract

Moored temperature and shipboard CTD observations from a northern California coastal upwelling region reveal variable bottom mixed-layer heights that are typically 5–15 m, but occasionally exceed 50 m. Observations from Oregon, northern California, and Peru, indicate that in coastal upwelling regions, maximum bottom mixed-layer heights tend to increase with water depth over the shelf, but rarely exceed half the water depth. Over the northern California shelf the bottom mixed-layer height is shown to depend on the stratification, the current magnitude, and the current direction. The dependence on current direction tends to dominate the response, with thicker bottom mixed layers during poleward flows and thinner bottom mixed layers during equatorward flows. This asymmetric response to poleward and equatorward currents is consistent with model results which indicate that the asymmetric response is due to the up- or downslope Ekman transport of buoyancy along the bottom.

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