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The Blob and Queen Charlotte: Predicting Ocean Properties in an Upwelling System during Anomalous Conditions
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  • Hayley Dosser,
  • Stephanie Waterman,
  • Jennifer Jackson,
  • Charles Hannah
Hayley Dosser
University of British Columbia

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Stephanie Waterman
University of British Columbia
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Jennifer Jackson
ASL Environmental Sciences Inc.
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Charles Hannah
Institute of Ocean Sciences
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From 2014 to at least 2018, ecosystem health in the eastern boundary upwelling system along the west coast of North America was significantly impacted by a combination of a marine heatwave known as The Blob and an El Niño event, as well as by ongoing climate change. At the northern limit of this upwelling system, in Queen Charlotte Sound on the highly productive central coast of British Columbia, we have demonstrated that changing conditions on the continental shelf and in coastal waters may be skillfully predicted based on observed open-ocean and large-scale atmospheric conditions on seasonal to interannual timescales. In this work, we build on our understanding of this predictability by presenting a statistical model that relates physical and biogeochemical ocean properties in this region to conditions at and beyond the shelf break and large-scale forcing metrics. The model is based on statistical relationships developed using a multi-decadal archive of hydrographic and biogeochemical data in combination with high-temporal-resolution mooring records collected in Queen Charlotte Sound, and is supported by a conceptual understanding of the upwelling and downwelling regimes in this region. We next use the model to examine specifically how the arrival of The Blob and the subsequent El Niño modified ocean conditions on the continental shelf during both upwelling and downwelling, including impacts on nutrient concentrations, dissolved oxygen levels, stratification, and warming. Our results suggest it may be possible to predict changes in this upwelling system caused by future anomalous events and climate change using readily available large-scale data products such as the Argo dataset and NOAA Upwelling Index.