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Nature. 2015 Feb 19;518(7539):390-4. doi: 10.1038/nature14235.

Intensification and spatial homogenization of coastal upwelling under climate change.

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Sustainability and Data Sciences Laboratory, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.
Department of Marine and Environmental Sciences, Marine Science Center, Northeastern University, Nahant, Massachusetts 01908, USA.
Department of Integrative Biology, Oregon State University, 3029 Cordley Hall, Corvallis, Oregon 97331, USA.


The timing and strength of wind-driven coastal upwelling along the eastern margins of major ocean basins regulate the productivity of critical fisheries and marine ecosystems by bringing deep and nutrient-rich waters to the sunlit surface, where photosynthesis can occur. How coastal upwelling regimes might change in a warming climate is therefore a question of vital importance. Although enhanced land-ocean differential heating due to greenhouse warming has been proposed to intensify coastal upwelling by strengthening alongshore winds, analyses of observations and previous climate models have provided little consensus on historical and projected trends in coastal upwelling. Here we show that there are strong and consistent changes in the timing, intensity and spatial heterogeneity of coastal upwelling in response to future warming in most Eastern Boundary Upwelling Systems (EBUSs). An ensemble of climate models shows that by the end of the twenty-first century the upwelling season will start earlier, end later and become more intense at high but not low latitudes. This projected increase in upwelling intensity and duration at high latitudes will result in a substantial reduction of the existing latitudinal variation in coastal upwelling. These patterns are consistent across three of the four EBUSs (Canary, Benguela and Humboldt, but not California). The lack of upwelling intensification and greater uncertainty associated with the California EBUS may reflect regional controls associated with the atmospheric response to climate change. Given the strong linkages between upwelling and marine ecosystems, the projected changes in the intensity, timing and spatial structure of coastal upwelling may influence the geographical distribution of marine biodiversity.

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