On the phenology of coastal upwelling off central-southern Chile

Resumen: Coastal upwelling is the dominant physical process triggering high biological productivity in Eastern Boundary Upwelling Systems (EBUS). These regions are characterized by intense upwelling events driven by Equatorward alongshore winds. In the Humboldt current system off central-southern Chile (30–40°S) the coastal upwelling process has been studied from several approaches including biogeochemical, fisheries and physical studies. Yet, the phenology of wind-driven upwelling along the meridional gradient has been poorly inspected. Using reanalysis data from the ERA5 product (1966–2020), we calculated the Cumulative Upwelling Index (CUI, m2 s−1 × 1000 m) to characterize the phenology of coastal upwelling off central-southern Chile, identifying the beginning (STI), the maximum (MAX) and the end (END) of the upwelling season. In addition, we quantified the duration (LUSI) and the total magnitude (TUMI) of the upwelling season. The response of the water column to cumulative wind stress was determined using in situ hydrographic data (2002–2020) from a middle shelf station off Concepción, which showed marked seasonal and interannual variability. In general, the onset, duration, and intensity of Ekman transport were highly variable. At 36.5°S (off Concepción), the STI occurred on August 6 ± 25.4 days and the duration of the upwelling season (LUSI) was 9 months 32.5 days. On the other hand, the TUMI at this latitude was −1.97 × 108 4.88 × 107. The CUI climatology during El Niño years showed weak and late upwelling (STI = August 29 ± 16.2 days) while upwelling was strong and early (STI = July 13 ± 30.6 days) during La Niña compared to the mean climatology. The water column showed a direct response to cumulative wind-driven upwelling conditions during El Niño 2015-2016 and La Niña 2007-2008. The rise of cold (11 °C), saline (34.5 isohaline), dense (25.8 kg m−3), and oxygen-poor ( 1 ml L−1) subsurface waters corresponded to stronger upwelling winds during La Niña 2007–2008. In contrast, coastal upwelling was substantially weak, with a warmer water column and the isotherm of 11.5 °C located below 30 m depth during El Niño 2015–2016.

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