Water-column cooling and sea surface salinity increase in the upwelling region off central-south Chile driven by a poleward displacement of the South Pacific High

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Abstract

Here we present results of direct observations of seawater temperature and salinity over the continental shelf off central-south Chile that shows an unprecedented cooling of the entire water column and an increase in upper layer salinity during 2002 to 2013. We provide evidence that this phenomenon is related to the intensification but mostly to a recent southward displacement of the South Pacific High over the same period, from 2007 on. This in turn has accelerated alongshore, equatorward, subtropical coastal upwelling favorable winds, particularly during winter, injecting colder water from below into the upper water column. Consequently, the environmental conditions on the shelf off central-south Chile shifted from a warmer (fresher) to a cooler (saltier) phase; water column temperature dropped from 11.7 °C (2003–2006) to 11.3 °C (2007–2012) and upper layer salinity rose by 0.25; water column stratification gradually decreased. The biological impacts of such abrupt cooling are apparently already happening in this coastal ecosystem, as recent evidence shows substantial changes in the plankton community and negative trends in zooplankton biomass over the same period.

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Schneider, W., Donoso, D., Garcés-Vargas, J., & Escribano, R. (2017). Water-column cooling and sea surface salinity increase in the upwelling region off central-south Chile driven by a poleward displacement of the South Pacific High. Progress in Oceanography, 151, 38–48. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pocean.2016.11.004

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