Document Type


Publication Date

February 2014

Publication Title

Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans



Issue Number


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Submarine canyon, California current, Coastal upwelling, Shelf-slope exchange, Numerical model, Particle tracking


Marine Biology


A numerical model of the northern California Current System along the coasts of Washington and British Columbia is used to quantify the impact of submarine canyons on upwelling from the continental slope onto the shelf. Comparisons with an extensive set of observations show that the model adequately represents the seasonal development of near-bottom density, as well as along-shelf currents that are critical in governing shelf-slope exchange. Additional model runs with simplified coastlines and bathymetry are used to isolate the effects of submarine canyons. Near submarine canyons, equatorward flow over the outer shelf is correlated with dense water at canyon heads and subsequent formation of closed cyclonic eddies, which are both associated with cross-shelf ageostrophic forces. Lagrangian particles tracked from the slope to midshelf show that canyons are associated with upwelling from depths of ∼140–260 m. Source depths for upwelling are shallower than 150 m at locations away from canyons and in a model run with bathymetry that is uniform in the along-shelf direction. Water upwelled through canyons is more likely to be found near the bottom over the shelf. Onshore fluxes of relatively saline water through submarine canyons are large enough to increase volume-averaged salinity over the shelf by 0.1–0.2 psu during the early part of the upwelling season. The nitrate input from the slope to the Washington shelf associated with canyons is estimated to be 30–60% of that upwelled to the euphotic zone by local wind-driven upwelling.


© 2014. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.
This article, the Version of Record, originally appeared in Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans in Volume 119, Issue 2 and can be found at this link.
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