Locally driven interannual variability of near-surface pH and ΩA in the strait of Georgia

Declines in mean ocean pH and aragonite saturation state (ΩA) driven by anthropogenic CO2 emissions have raised concerns regarding the trends of pH and ΩA in estuaries. Low pH and ΩA can be harmful to a variety of marine organisms, especially those with calcium carbonate (CaCO3) shells, and so may threaten the productive ecosystems and commercial fisheries found in many estuarine environments. The Strait of Georgia is a large, temperate, productive estuarine system with numerous wild and aquaculture shellfish and finfish populations. We determine the seasonality and variability of near-surface pH and ΩA in the Strait using a one-dimensional, biophysical, mixing layer model. We further evaluate the sensitivity of these quantities to local wind, freshwater, and cloud forcing by running the model over a wide range of scenarios using 12 years of observations. Near-surface pH and ΩA demonstrate strong seasonal cycles characterized by low pH, aragonite-undersaturated waters in winter and high pH, aragonite-supersaturated waters in summer. The aragonite saturation horizon generally lies at ∼20 m depth except in winter and during strong Fraser River freshets when it shoals to the surface. Periods of strong interannual variability in pH and aragonite saturation horizon depth arise in spring and summer. We determine that at different times of year, each of wind speed, freshwater flux, and cloud fraction are the dominant driver of this variability. These results establish the mechanisms behind the emerging observations of highly-variable near-surface carbonate chemistry in the Strait. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Moore-Maley B. L., Allen S. E. & Lanson D, in press. Locally driven interannual variability of near-surface pH and ΩA in the strait of Georgia. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans. Article (subscription required).


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