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CCE1: Decrease in the frequency of oceanic fronts and surface chlorophyll concentration in the California Current System during the 2014–2016 northeast Pacific warm anomalies

  • Author(s): Kahru, M
  • Jacox, MG
  • Ohman, MD
  • et al.
Abstract

Oceanic fronts are sites of increased vertical exchange that are often associated with increased primary productivity, downward flux of organic carbon, and aggregation of plankton and higher trophic levels. Given the influence of fronts on the functioning of marine ecosystems, an improved understanding of the spatial and temporal variability of frontal activity is desirable. Here, we document changes in the frequency of sea-surface fronts and the surface concentration of chlorophyll-a (Chla) in the California Current System that occurred during the Northeast Pacific anomalous warming of 2014–2015 and El Niño of 2015–2016, and place those anomalies in the context of two decades of variability. Frontal frequency was detected with the automated histogram method using datasets of sea-surface temperature (SST) and Chla from multiple satellite sensors. During the anomalous 2014–2016 period, a drop in the frequency of fronts coincided with the largest negative Chla anomalies and positive SST anomalies in the whole period of satellite observations (1997–2017 for Chla and 1982–2017 for SST). These recent reductions in frontal frequency ran counter to a previously reported increasing trend, though it remains to be seen if they represent brief interruptions in that trend or a reversal that will persist going forward.

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