Declining Oxygen on the British Columbia Continental Shelf, Atmosphere-Ocean

Posted on Hypoxia Listserv: 29 Mar 2013 — Article of interest by William R. Crawford & M. Angelica Peña (2013)

The first thorough examination of oxygen concentrations in Canadian waters of the Pacific Ocean reveals several patterns in space and time. Sub-surface concentrations of oxygen tend to be lower in shelf waters than in deep-sea waters on the same isopycnal and lower in southern waters of the continental shelf than farther north. The lowest near-bottom concentration was 0.7 ml L−1 (31 μmol kg−1) in mid-shelf waters in summer off southwest Vancouver Island in the Juan de Fuca Eddy region. Oxygen concentration there declined at a rate of 0.019 ml L−1 y−1 (0.83 μmol kg−1 y−1) from 1979 to 2011. This decline is attributed mainly to changes in oxygen concentrations on the same density surfaces, rather than to changes in the depth of constant-density surfaces. A numerical simulation of ocean currents and nutrient concentrations in and surrounding the Juan de Fuca Eddy in summer reveals persistent upwelling into the centre of this eddy and slow bottom currents within the eddy. Upwelled water at bottom of the Juan de Fuca Eddy has water properties associated with the California Undercurrent on the 26.6 sigma-t surface at 200 m depth, where oxygen concentration is typically 2.0 ml L−1 (87 μmol kg−1) and declined at a rate of 0.025 ml L−1 y−1 (1.1 μmol kg−1 y−1) from 1981 to 2011, mainly as a result of changes on constant-density surfaces rather than to uplifting isopycnals. We propose that upwelling advects deep, oxygen-poor water onto the continental shelf bottom, and the slow bottom currents allow time for oxidation of organic material in bottom waters to further reduce the oxygen concentration.


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