UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Local and remote forcing of currents and temperature in the central Southern California Bight. Hickey, B. M.; Dobbins, E. L.; Allen, Susan E.


A comprehensive study of the central Southern California Bight shows that subtidal currents are dominated by relatively long time scales (10–25 days), large alongshore scales, and significant offshore and upward phase propagation. A one-dimensional model shows that observed fluctuating, poleward propagating (speeds 140–260 cm s−1) alongshore pressure gradient disturbances account for a much larger fraction of the alongshore velocity variance than local wind stress (at least 40% in both seasons) and have the longer periods of the dominant currents. With the addition of local wind stress, about half the velocity variance can be accounted for, and overall, about 5% more variance in spring than in summer. Results are consistent with generation of disturbances by remote wind stress several hundred kilometers equatorward of the bight and alongcoast propagation as low-mode coastally trapped waves. The large-scale remote forcing is also responsible for much of the velocity variance on the adjacent shelf, the semienclosed Santa Monica Bay. A nonlinear, three-dimensional model shows that water is pushed into the bay initially as part of a throughflow, later becoming an eddy that gradually fills the bay, producing counterflow on its shoreward side. On the shelf, local alongshore wind stress accounts for only 25% of the velocity variance in spring and none in summer. The large-scale disturbances also produce significant temperature fluctuations throughout the region, via lateral advection of the mean alongshore temperature gradient. Local wind-driven coastal upwelling is responsible for temperature fluctuations on the inner shelf during several 2–4 day events in spring, but only very near the coastal wall. An edited version of this paper was published by AGU. Copyright 2003 American Geophysical Union.

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