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El-Niño-related stratification anomalies over the continental slope off Oregon in summer 2014 and 2015
  • Alexander L. Kurapov
Alexander L. Kurapov
Coast Survey Development Laboratory, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Over the continental slope off Oregon at the US West Coast, at 44.6N, vertical stratification is found to be anomalously weak in July-August of 2014 and 2015 both in a regional ocean circulation model and Conductivity-Temperature-Depth (CTD) profile observations. To understand the responsible mechanism, we focus on the layer between the isopycnal surfaces $\sigma_\theta=26.5$ and 26.25 kg/m3 that is found between depths 100-300 m and represents material properties characteristic of the slope poleward undercurrent and shelf-slope exchange. This layer thickness, about 50 m on average, can be twice as large during the above-mentioned periods. In the 2009-2018 model analysis, this anomaly is revealed over the continental slope only in summers 2014 and 2015 and only off the Oregon and Washington coasts (40-47N). The stratification anomaly is explained as the effect of advection of the seasonal alongslope potential vorticity (PV) gradient by an anomalously strong poleward slope current. In the annual cycle, the zone of strong alongslope PV gradient is found between 40-47N, supported by the local upwelling that results in the injection of the large PV in the bottom boundary layer over the shelf followed by its offshore transport in the slope region. The positive alongslope current anomaly propagates to Oregon with coastally trapped waves as part of the El Niño oceanic response and can be up to 0.1 m/s. Advection by this anomalous poleward current results in transporting the seasonal PV gradient earlier in the season than on average.