A simple box model is used to examine oxygen depletion in an idealized ocean-margin upwelling system. Near-bottom oxygen depletion is controlled by a competition between flushing with oxygenated offshore source waters and respiration of particulate organic matter produced near the surface and retained near the bottom. Upwelling-supplied nutrients are consumed in the surface box, and some surface particles sink to the bottom where they respire, consuming oxygen. Steady states characterize the potential for hypoxic near-bottom oxygen depletion; this potential is greatest for faster sinking rates, and largely independent of production timescales except in that faster production allows faster sinking. Timescales for oxygen depletion depend on upwelling and productivity differently, however, as oxygen depletion can only be reached in meaningfully short times when productivity is rapid. Hypoxia thus requires fast production, to capture upwelled nutrients, and fast sinking, to deliver the respiration potential to model bottom waters. Combining timescales allows generalizations about tendencies toward hypoxia. If timescales of sinking are comparable to or smaller than the sum of those for respiration and flushing, the steady state will generally be hypoxic, and results indicate optimal timescales and conditions exist to generate hypoxia. For example, the timescale for approach to hypoxia lengthens with stronger upwelling, since surface particle and nutrient are shunted off-shelf, in turn reducing subsurface respiration and oxygen depletion. This suggests that if upwelling winds intensify with climate change the increased forcing could offer mitigation of coastal hypoxia, even as the oxygen levels in upwelled source waters decline.
Harrison, C. S., Hales, B., Siedlecki, S., and Samelson, R. M. (2016), Potential and timescales for oxygen depletion in coastal upwelling systems: A box‐model analysis, J. Geophys. Res. Oceans, 121, 3202– 3227, doi:10.1002/2015JC011328.
Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans