Combes, V., E. Di Lorenzo and Curchitser, E, (2009): Interannual and Decadal Variations in Cross‐Shelf Transport in the Gulf of Alaska. Journal of Physical Oceanography 39(4), 1050‐1059. Link
The marine ecosystem of the Gulf of Alaska (GOA) is one of the richest on the planet. The center of the GOA is characterized by high-nutrient and low-chlorophyll-a concentration. Recent observational studies suggest that advection of iron-rich coastal water is the primary mechanism controlling open ocean productivity. Specifically, there is evidence that mesoscale eddies along the coastal GOA entrain iron-rich coastal waters into the ocean interior. This study investigates the cross-shelf transport statistics in the GOA using a free-surface, hydrostatic, eddy-resolving primitive equation model over the period 1965–2004. The statistics of coastal water transport are computed using a model passive tracer, which is continuously released at the coast. The passive tracer can thus be considered a proxy for coastal biogeochemical quantities such as silicate, nitrate, iron, or oxygen, which are critical for explaining the GOAecosystem dynamics. On average along the Alaska Current, it has been shown that at the surface while the advection of tracers by the average flow is directed toward the coast consistent with the dominant downwelling regime of the GOA, it is the mean eddy fluxes that contribute to offshore advection into the gyre interior. South of the Alaskan Peninsula, both the advection of tracers by the average flow and the mean eddy fluxes contribute to the mean offshore advection. On interannual and longer time scales, the offshore transport of the passive tracer in the Alaskan Stream does not correlate with large-scale atmospheric forcing, nor with local winds. In contrast in the Alaska Current region, stronger offshore transport of the passive tracer coincides with periods of stronger downwelling (in particular during positive phases of the Pacific decadal oscillation), which trigger the development of stronger eddies.
 Combes, V., E. Di Lorenzo, (2007): Intrinsic and forced interannual variability of the Gulf of Alaska mesoscale circulation. Progress In Oceanography, 75, 266‐286 Link
The response of the Gulf of Alaska (GOA) circulation to large-scale North Pacific climate variability is explored using three high resolution (15 km) regional ocean model ensembles over the period 1950–2004. On interannual and decadal timescales the mean circulation is strongly modulated by changes in the large scale climate forcing associated with PDO and ENSO. Intensification of the model gyre scale circulation occurs after the 1976–1977 climate shift, as well as during 1965–1970 and 1993–1995. From the model dynamical budgets we find that when the GOA experiences stronger southeasterly winds, typical during the positive phase of the PDO and ENSO, there is net large-scale Ekman convergence in the central and eastern coastal boundary. The geostrophic adjustment to higher sea surface height (SSH) and lower isopycnals lead to stronger cyclonic gyre scale circulation. The opposite situation occurs during stronger northwesterly winds (negative phase of the PDO).
Along the eastern side of the GOA basin, interannual changes in the surface winds also modulate the seasonal development of high amplitude anticyclonic eddies (e.g. Haida and Sitka eddies). Large interannual eddy events during winter-spring, are phase-locked with the seasonal cycle. The initial eddy dynamics are consistent with a quasi-linear Rossby wave response to positive SSH anomalies forced by stronger downwelling favorable winds (e.g. southwesterly during El Niño). However, because of the fast growth rate of baroclinic instability and the geographical focusing associated with the coastal geometry, most of the perturbation energy in the Rossby wave is locally trapped until converted into large scale nonlinear coherent eddies. Coastally trapped waves of tropical origin may also contribute to positive SSH anomalies that lead to higher amplitude eddies. However, their presence does not appear essential. The model ensembles, which do not include the effects of equatorial coastally trapped waves, capture the large Haida and Sitka eddy events observed during 1982 and 1997 and explain between 40% and 70% of the tidal gauges variance along the GOA coast.
In the western side of the GOA basin, interannual eddy variability located south of the Alaskan Stream is not correlated with large scale forcing and appears to be intrinsic. A comparison of the three model ensembles forced by NCEP winds and a multi-century-long integration forced only with the seasonal cycle, shows that the internal variability alone explains most of the eddy variance. The asymmetry between the eddy forced regime in the eastern basin, and the intrinsic regime in the western basin, has important implications for predicting the GOA response to climate change. If future climate change results in stronger wintertime winds and increased downwelling in the eastern basin, then increased mesoscale activity (perhaps more or larger eddies) might occur in this region. Conversely, the changes in the western basin are not predictable based on environmental forcing. Eastern eddies transport important biogeochemical quantities such as iron, oxygen and chlorophyll-a into the gyre interior, therefore having potential upscale effects on the GOA high-nutrient-low-chlorophyll region