Cyclonic circulation and climatology of SST, CHL and wind stress curl in a semi-enclosed bay (Bahía de La Paz, Gulf of California, Mexico)

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Emilio Beier
Rubén Castro
Victor M. Godínez


The first direct current observations (with the Lowering Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler [LADCP] and surface drifters) in Bahía de La Paz, in the southwestern Gulf of California (GC), concur with previous reports that the main dynamical feature during summer is a closed cyclonic circulation. However, we found that geostrophic calculations overestimate the speed of the orbital velocity: actual speeds (0.20-0.25 m s–1) were ~25-40% lower than those estimated from geostrophic balance (0.25-0.35 m s–1). The reason is that the centrifugal force cannot be neglected in this case. The mean rotation period during ship-borne observations in August 2004 was ~1.4 days, but it varied in the time that surface drifters were inside the bay, from ~1-2 days in June-July to ~2.5-3 days in September-October. The analysis of satellite data (wind velocity, sea surface temperature and chlorophyll) shows that from May to September the wind stress curl is strong and cyclonic, and the surface of the bay is cooler and richer than the adjacent Gulf of California waters, which could be attributed to the positive wind stress curl. This positive wind stress curl on the bay is part of a larger-scale positive wind stress curl distribution that surrounds the southern part of the Baja California Peninsula during summer, probably enhanced in the bay by local topography features. Although there is an exchange of water between the bay and the GC, its effect on the dynamics is poorly known. 


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