Hydrographic and particle distributions over the Palos Verdes continental shelf: Spatial, seasonal and daily variability

Burton Jones*, Marlene A. Noble, Tommy D. Dickey

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Moorings and towyo mapping were used to study the temporal and spatial variability of physical processes and suspended particulate material over the continental shelf of the Palos Verdes Peninsula in southwestern Los Angeles, California during the late summer of 1992 and winter of 1992-93. Seasonal evolution of the hydrographic structure is related to seasonal atmospheric forcing. During summer, stratification results from heating of the upper layer. Summer insolation coupled with the stratification results in a slight salinity increase nearsurface due to evaporation. Winter cooling removes much of the upper layer stratification, but winter storms can introduce sufficient quantities of freshwater into the shelf water column again adding stratification through the buoyancy input. Vertical mixing of the low salinity surface water deeper into the water column decreases the sharp nearsurface stratification and reduces the overall salinity of the upper water column. Moored conductivity measurements indicate that the decreased salinity persisted for at least 2 months after a major storm with additional freshwater inputs through the period. Four particulate groups contributed to the suspended particulate load in the water column: phytoplankton, resuspended sediments, and particles in treated sewage effluent were observed in every towyo mapping cruise; terrigenous particles are introduced through runoff from winter rainstorms. Terrigenous suspended particulate material sinks from the water column in <9 days and phytoplankton respond to the stormwater input of buoyancy and nutrients within the same period. The suspended particles near the bottom have spatially patchy distributions, but are always present in hydrographic surveys of the shelf. Temporal variations in these particles do not show a significant tidal response, but they may be maintained in suspension by internal wave and tide processes impinging on the shelf.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)945-965
Number of pages21
JournalContinental Shelf Research
Issue number6-7
StatePublished - Jun 19 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Geology


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