Local winds and encroaching currents drive summertime subsurface blooms over a narrow shelf

Tamara Schlosser, Andrew Lucas, Nicole Jones, Jonathan Nash, Gregory Ivey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The ability to forecast the biological productivity of the coastal ocean relies on the quantification of the physical processes that deliver nutrients to the euphotic zone. Here we explore these pathways using observations of the coupled biological and physical variability of waters offshore of the east coast of Tasmania in the summertime. The observations include an array of moored autonomous profilers deployed over an \SI{18}{day} period -- providing continuous, full-depth measurements of turbulent microstructure, temperature, velocity, and chlorophyll-\textit{a} fluorescence (\chla{}), complemented by shipboard nutrient measurements. Local upwelling was driven by the encroaching East Australian Current (EAC) extension onto the shelf and to a lesser extent the local winds. The interaction of the local winds and the encroaching boundary current was reflected in the shelf nutrient budget and led to a rapid increase in subsurface \chla{}. Diffusive vertical fluxes had minimal impact on subsurface \chla{} in the mid- and outer-shelf. Upwelling-favorable winds were too weak to drive significant vertical mixing, and mixing associated with the current-driven Ekman transport was too deep compared to the euphotic zone depth. The observed subsurface \chla{} did not reflect the satellite estimates of productivity. Since the EAC extension transports warm, low-nutrient surface waters from the subtropics, satellite chlorophyll measurements decreased during the same period the depth-averaged \chla{} increased. This seeming paradox illustrated how long duration, full water column sampling can elucidate the coupled biological and physical processes that aid our ongoing effort to forecast the biological state of the coastal ocean.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)888-902
Number of pages15
JournalLimnology and Oceanography
Issue number4
Early online dateFeb 2022
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022


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