In February 1991, an array of six current-meter moorings was deployed for one year across the central California outer shelf and slope. The main line of the array extended 30 km offshore of the shelf break, out to water depths of 1400 m. A more sparsely-instrumented line, displaced 30 km to the northwest, extended 14 km offshore. Though shorter, the northern line spanned similar water depths because the gradient of the topography steepened in the northern region. A poleward flow pattern, typical of the California undercurrent, was seen across both lines in the array over most of the year. The poleward flow was surface intensified. In general, the portion of the undercurrent that crossed the southern line had larger amplitudes and penetrated more deeply into the water column than the portion that crossed the northern line. Transport over the year ranged from 0 to 2.5 Sverdrups (Sv) poleward across the southern line; 0 to 1 Sv poleward across the northern line. We suggest the difference in transport was caused by topographic constraints, which tended to force the poleward flow offshore of the northern measurement sites. The slope of the topography steepened too abruptly to allow the poleward flow to follow isobaths when currents were strong. When current velocities lessened, a more coherent flow pattern was seen across both lines in the array. In general, the poleward flow patterns in the undercurrent were not affected by local winds or by the local alongshore pressure gradient. Nor was a strong seasonal pattern evident. Rather unexpectedly, a small but statistically significant fraction of the current variance over the mid- and outer slope was driven by the surface wind stress. An alongshelf wind stress caused currents to flow along the slope, parallel to the wind field, down to depths of 400 m below the surface and out to distances of 2 Rossby radii past the shelf break. The transfer functions were weak, 3-4 cm/s per dyn cm-2, but comparable to wind-driven current amplitudes of 4-6 cm/s per unit wind stress over the middle shelf. Equatorward, alongshelf winds also caused water from 200-300 m over the slope to upwell onto the shelf as the surface water moved offshore.
Additional Publication Details
Subtidal currents over the central California slope: Evidence for offshore veering of the undercurrent and for direct, wind-driven slope currents
Deep-Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography