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J Geophys Res. 2008;113(c12):c12014.

Tracing the Early Development of Harmful Algal Blooms on the West Florida Shelf with the Aid of Lagrangian Coherent Structures.

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Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami, Miami, 4600 Rickenbacker Cswy., Miami, FL 33149, USA.


Several theories have been proposed to explain the development of harmful algal blooms (HABs) produced by the toxic dinoflagellate Karenia brevis on the West Florida Shelf. However, because the early stages of HAB development are usually not detected, these theories have been so far very difficult to verify. In this paper we employ simulated Lagrangian coherent structures (LCSs) to trace potential early locations of the development of a HAB in late 2004 before it was transported to a region where it could be detected by satellite imagery. The LCSs, which are extracted from surface ocean currents produced by a data-assimilative HYCOM (HYbrid-Coordinate Ocean Model) simulation, constitute material fluid barriers that demarcate potential pathways for HAB evolution. Using a simplified population dynamics model we infer the factors that could possibly lead to the development of the HAB in question. The population dynamics model determines nitrogen in two components, nutrients and phytoplankton, which are assumed to be passively advected by surface ocean currents produced by the above HYCOM simulation. Two nutrient sources are inferred for the HAB whose evolution is found to be strongly tied to the simulated LCSs. These nutrient sources are found to be located nearshore and possibly due to land runoff.

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