Publication Date

June 2019

Document Type


Publication Title

Continental Shelf Research





First Page


Last Page



As the base of almost all marine food webs, phytoplankton play a dominant role in determining the productivity of marine ecosystems. Recent studies have highlighted the dynamic variability of phytoplankton abundance in nearshore ecosystems over synoptic time scales. Therefore, a greater understanding of the physical mechanisms that contribute to this variability is required to assess impacts of current as well as future weather patterns on these ecosystems. In this study, chlorophyll fluorescence data from a nearshore location in southern Monterey Bay was used to identify the timing and duration of increases in phytoplankton concentrations. Regional physical parameters, including wind stress, wave height and water temperature were analyzed to determine what, if any, physical processes are associated with observed blooms. A significant negative correlation between water temperature and chlorophyll (high chlorophyll associated with cold water) was found for the two summer seasons studied (2012, 2013). The timing of high chlorophyll events coincided with relaxations of upwelling favorable wind conditions. Analysis of surface current data suggests that the incoming cold water masses are the result of poleward currents from the south of Monterey Bay. A conceptual model is proposed in which phytoplankton are advected into southern Monterey Bay during wind relaxation events preceded by upwelling events of great enough duration to establish well defined circulation patterns. The reversal of circulation patterns transports cold, phytoplankton-rich water into the bay from south of the Monterey Peninsula. This study demonstrates that wind relaxation events can be an important driver of localized high phytoplankton biomass events on the inner shelf by advecting recently upwelled water into coastal embayments that are relatively sheltered from strong upwelling favorable winds.