Cadmium in the California Current system: Tracer of past and present upwelling

Journal of Geophysical Research C: Oceans
By:  and 



Over 100 samples were collected off the west coast of North America during 1991–1993 to determine the relation between wind‐driven upwelling and nearshore concentrations of dissolved silicate (Si), phosphate (P), and cadmium (Cd). Highly enriched in deep water offshore, these constituents are sensitive indicators of upwelling. Coastal water was sampled from the shore in January and June 1992 at 12 sites distributed between 36° and 48°N latitude. In January the composition of nearshore water along this transect was fairly uniform: 5–15 μmol/kg for Si, 0.5 to 1.0 μmol/kg for P, and 0.1–0.3 nmol/kg for Cd. In June, elevated concentrations of Si (30 μmol/kg), P (2.0 μmol/kg), and Cd (0.6 nmol/kg) revealed a region of intense upwelling between 38° and 40°N. The pattern is broadly consistent with meridional gradients in coastal upwelling calculated from the long‐term mean of alongshore winds compiled from ship reports. Nearshore water was also collected biweekly to monthly at two sites 3 km apart near San Francisco Bay (37.5°N) during 1991–1993. The variability seen in the time series suggests that the composition of nearshore water integrates the effect of alongshore winds over timescales of several weeks. Seasonal variations in Si (5–50 μmol/kg), P (0.5–2.5 μmol/kg), and Cd (0.1–0.8 nmol/kg) concentrations were consistent with upwelling during spring and summer. Maximum Si, P, and Cd concentrations reached in May 1991 were consistent with advection to the very nearshore region from a depth of about 300 m relative to a vertical profile at a distance of 200 km from the coast. Nearshore Si, P, and Cd concentrations were reduced relative to 1991 in 1992, and, to a lesser extent, in 1993 due to weaker upwelling linked to the warm phase of the El Niño‐Southern Oscillation. During periods of weaker upwelling or downwelling, variations in P, Si, and Cd concentrations became uncoupled. There is a good correlation between the coastal Cd time series near San Francisco Bay (37.5°N) and a second order polynomial function of the upwelling index of Bakun [1975] at 36°N, filtered with a 30‐day running mean (r2 = 0.71, n = 39). The index is a daily estimate of coastal upwelling calculated from 6‐hourly mean atmospheric pressure distributions at 36°N. From this function and a record of daily upwelling indices, we infer a range of annually averaged coastal Cd concentrations of at least 0.3–0.5 nmol/kg since 1967. Cd/Ca ratios in shells of foraminifera from San Francisco Bay suggest that average coastal Cd concentrations 3500–4500 years ago were at the upper end of this range.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Cadmium in the California Current system: Tracer of past and present upwelling
Series title Journal of Geophysical Research C: Oceans
DOI 10.1029/95JC03302
Volume 101
Issue C2
Year Published 1996
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Toxic Substances Hydrology Program
Description 19 p.
First page 3489
Last page 3507
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