Sea surface temperature, ocean color and wind forcing patterns in the Bay of La Paz, Gulf of California: Seasonal variability

Hugo Herrera Cervantes

Abstract

Monthly climatologies are used to estimate the mean seasonal cycle of MODIS-Aqua satellite-derived sea surface temperature (SST), surface chlorophyll (Chl-a) and their relationship with surface wind stress curl (from the Cross-Calibrate Multi-Platform, CCMP) in the Bay of La Paz located in the southwestern Gulf of California, a region identified as having high biological productivity and significant seasonal variability. Harmonic fit applied to the monthly climatologies of these variables indicate a best fit with annual and semi-annual constituents. The annual amplitude was the dominant signal in both SST and Chl-a, corresponding to the bay-wide seasonal cycle of warming and cooling associated with the influx of upwelled nutrient-rich coastal waters jointly with the water exchange between the bay and the Gulf of California. Empirical orthogonal function (EOF) decomposition yielded the annual and semi-annual patterns of the seasonal cycle that respond to wind forcing. The EOF1 explained 93% of the SST variance and 48% of the Chl-a variance, showing a homogeneous variability of both variables across the bay and a strong thermal and biological gradient in the vicinity of the Gulf of California with their corresponding amplitude time series representing out-of-phase annual cycles, which corresponded to the regional dynamics of wind forcing pattern. The EOF2 accounted for 6% of the SST variance and 31% of the Chl-a variance, which reached its peak during winter associated with the high Chl-a anomaly values (>1.5 mg m–3) observed along the coast. The intense biological productivity covaried strongly with the wind stress curl annual cycle (R = 0.5, P < 0.05), suggesting that these Chl-a blooms could be associated with coastal currents and upwelling events regulated by the seasonal wind forcing pattern playing an essential role in the modulation of this quasi-permanent biophysical coupling observed in the Bay of La Paz during an annual cycle.

Keywords

Seasonal cycle; EOF; biophysical coupling

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