Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.)


Moss Landing Marine Laboratories


A decade-long time series recorded in southern Monterey Bay, California demonstrates that the shallow, near-shore environment (17 m depth) is regularly inundated with pulses of cold, hypoxic and low pH water. During these episodes, oxygen can drop to biologically threatening levels, and pH levels were lower than expected. Weekly water chemistry monitoring revealed that the saturation state of aragonite (the more soluble form of calcium carbonate) was often below saturation and had a moderate positive relationship with pH, however, analytical and human error could be high. Pulses of hypoxia and low pH water with the greatest intensity arise at the onset of the spring upwelling season, and fluctuations are strongly semidurnal (tidal) and diurnal. Arrival of cold, hypoxic water on the inner shelf typically occurs 3 days after the arrival of a strong upwelling event and appears to be driven by upwelling modulated by internal tidal fluctuations. I found no relationship between the timing of low-oxygen events and the diel solar cycle nor with terrestrial nutrient input. These observations are consistent with advection of hypoxic water from the deep, offshore environment where water masses experience a general decline of temperature, oxygen and pH with depth, and inconsistent with biochemical forcing. Comparisons with concurrent temperature and oxygen time series taken ~20 km away at the head of the Monterey Canyon show similar patterns but even more intense hypoxic events due to stronger semidiurnal forcing there. Analysis of the durations of exposure to low oxygen levels establishes a framework for assessing the ecological relevance of these events. Increasing oceanic hypoxia and acidification of both surface and deep waters may increase the number, intensity, duration and spatial extent of future intrusions along the Pacific coast. Evaluation of the resiliency of nearshore ecosystems such as kelp forests, rocky reefs and sandy habitats, will require consideration of these events.


Thesis (M.S.) Division of Science and Environmental Policy. Moss Landing Marine Laboratories