New upwelling indices available for California Current (publication by Mike Jacox)

With the Bakun upwelling index almost 30 years old, a new publication by Mike Jacox explores two new indices derived from modeled vertical velocity: CUTI (coastal upwelling and transport index) and BEUTI (biologically effective upwelling and transport index). Mike has also provided a history of the upwelling indices focusing on where the indices agree and diverge. The publication is available in early view at JGR.

Abstract: Coastal upwelling is responsible for thriving marine ecosystems and fisheries that are disproportionately productive relative to their surface area, particularly in the world’s major eastern boundary upwelling systems. Along oceanic eastern boundaries, equatorward wind stress and the Earth’s rotation combine to drive a near-surface layer of water offshore, a process called Ekman transport. Similarly, positive wind stress curl drives divergence in the surface Ekman layer and consequently upwelling from below, a process known as Ekman suction. In both cases, displaced water is replaced by upwelling of relatively nutrient-rich water from below, which stimulates the growth of microscopic phytoplankton that form the base of the marine food web. Ekman theory is foundational and underlies the calculation of upwelling indices such as the “Bakun Index” that are ubiquitous in eastern boundary upwelling system studies. While generally valuable first-order descriptions, these indices and their underlying theory provide an incomplete picture of coastal upwelling. Here we review the relevant dynamics and limitations of classical upwelling indices, particularly related to representation of the surface wind stress, the influence of geostrophic currents, and the properties of upwelled water. To address these shortcomings, we present two new upwelling indices for the U.S. West Coast (31–47°N), which are available from 1988 to present. The Coastal Upwelling Transport Index and the Biologically Effective Upwelling Transport Index provide improved estimates of vertical transport and vertical nitrate flux, respectively, by leveraging technological and scientific advances realized since the introduction of the Bakun Index nearly a half century ago.

Jacox, M. G., C. A. Edwards, E. L. Hazen, and S. J. Bograd, 2018. Coastal upwelling revisited: Ekman, Bakun, and improved upwelling indices for the U.S. west coast, Journal of Geophysical Research, doi:10.1029/2018JC014187. PDF


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