WA Coast regional ocean projections

Projections of Ocean Properties Along the Washington Coast Related to Environmental Health

Researchers developed a new modeling system that forecasts cyclical and climate-driven changes in regional ocean conditions. The system also has many other potential applications.

Principal Investigator

Nicholas Bond, University of Washington, Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean (JISAO)

Co-Principal Investigators

Enrique Curchitser, Rutgers University, Department of Marine and Coastal Science

Albert Herman, University of Washington, JISAO

Project

Washington Sea Grant-funded researchers combined global climate models with the finer-grain Regional Ocean Modeling System to forecast future upwelling, circulation, wind, temperature, and ecological conditions in Washington waters. They tested their models by “predicting” past conditions and comparing the results to known outcomes. They also adapted NOAA projections to devise what may be the first system for forecasting ocean biochemistry, in detail, on seasonal time scales.

Research Updates

Background

Climate change will likely affect many physical and ecological processes on Washington’s coast. An accurate, high-resolution modeling system could help predict whether climate change will promote harmful algal blooms, hypoxia (low dissolved oxygen), invasive species migrations, or other threats to coastal environmental health.

Results

The simulations yielded a wealth of insights:

  • Decadal fluctuations will mask the effects of changing climate until mid-century.
  • Stronger summer winds will increase offshore upwelling.
  • The water column will become more stratified, and water arriving inshore will likely contain more nutrients and carbon dioxide, promoting acidification.
  • The changes anticipated in oceanic circulation in the next few decades will not favor species invasions or harmful algal blooms. Subtropical invasives may nevertheless thrive as waters warm.

NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center is using the new biochemistry-forecasting system in integrated ecosystem assessments. Other researchers have expressed interest in using it for seasonal ocean predictions, possibly in the Bering Sea. It may provide early warning of harmful algal blooms and hypoxia, which agencies can now only monitor once they appear. The research has also informed the principal investigator’s service as Washington State Climatologist, and as a mentor to a local tribal member investigating prospective climate impacts on his community.

Publications

Furtado J, Di Lorenzo E, Schneider N, Bond NA (2011) North Pacific decadal variability and climate change in the IPCC AR4 Models. Journal of Climate, 24(12):3049-3067

King JR, D’Agostini VN, Harvey CJ, McFarlane GA, Foreman MG, Overland JE, Di Lorenzo E, Bond NA, Aydin KY (2011) Climate forcing and the California current ecosystem. ICES Journal of Marine Science, 68(6):1199-1216

Annual Reports

2012 Final Report