Sanctuary Integrated Monitoring Network
Monitoring Project

SCOPE: Simulations of Coastal Ocean Physics and Ecosystems

Principal Investigator(s)

  • Francisco Chavez
    Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
  • John Ryan
    Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
Start Date: June 01, 2000
End Date: August 15, 2004

We propose to model the coastal upwelling ecosystem within the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS) with high spatial (kms) and temporal (days) resolution. The high-resolution coastal model is nested within regional and basin-scale models. The model includes the interconnected physical, chemical, and biological processes, and is capable of assimilating data from satellites and in-situ sensors. The model will focus on simulating the observed seasonal and interannual variations in physical oceanographic forcing and the chemical and biological consequences.

The rich historical data-base and excellent matrix of real-time ocean observing systems available in the MBNMS provide a unique environment for the development of the next generation of coupled coastal physical-biological models. Long-term (decadal and longer) simulation and prediction will contribute to policy, short term simulation will guide management.

The project will provide a high-resolution coastal model that will simulate physical, chemical, and biological processes within this domain, enabling the managers of the MBNMS to fulfill their mandate of promoting "resource protection, research, education, and public use." For example, the model can be used by local, state, and federal agencies for the management of harmful algal blooms, for the advection and redistribution of pollution, and for long-term planning. The model can also be used to direct future observational efforts within the MBNMS.

This project also proposes to create and implement a 'node' for data assimilation and modeling activities. These activities will focus on the local application of global and basin-scale ocean data assimilation results to solve practical ocean-related problems inshore of the continental shelfbreak. Our focus will be on the domain of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. The nested model will be capable of assimilating global-scale ocean nowcasts and remote sensing data sets.

The proposal brings together academic (UCSC, UCLA, Duke, Univ. of Maine), industry (HOBI Labs), non-profit (MBARI), and government (JPL, NPS, NRL, MBNMS) partners. Included are physical, chemical, and biological oceanographers as well as atmospheric scientists, model developers, and resource managers.

Summary to Date

There are clear examples of physical-biological coupling on seasonal and decadal scales. Surprisingly the interannual connections are not as clear. Seasonally the spring and early summer are periods of upwelling. The upwelling signal is evident in winds, currents, temperature, nitrate, chlorophyll, primary production and centric diatoms.

During the late summer and early fall (the oceanic period) there are increases in temperature, a shoaling and intensification of the poleward undercurrent, decreases in nitrate concentration, chlorophyll and primary production, and a shift in species assemblages. A deeper mixed layer and minima in biological and chemical properties characterize the winter.

The long-term trend is for the ecosystem to change from the upwelling condition to a more oceanic condition. Temperatures are increasing, the poleward undercurrent is intensifying, subsurface nitrate concentration, chlorophyll and primary production are decreasing, and a shift in species assemblages like that observed in the seasonal cycle is occurring. The increase in temperature has been well documented but the other changes have only been hypothesized.

Time series like the ones presented here are extremely rare yet they are required before an accurate assessment of changes associated with global change can be made. Based on ten years of data we have constructed a coherent story of how the ecosystem may be changing, however, much longer series are required to confirm this story.

Study Parameters

  • Temperature
  • Density
  • Salinity
  • Chl A
  • Nitrates
  • Nitrites
  • Phosphate
  • Silicate
  • Primary Production
  • Biomass

Study Methods