02 May 2019
 | 02 May 2019
Status: a revised version of this preprint was accepted for the journal BG and is expected to appear here in due course.

ENSO-driven fluctuations in oxygen supply and vertical extent of oxygen-poor waters in the oxygen minimum zone of the Eastern Tropical South Pacific

Yonss Saranga José, Lothar Stramma, Sunke Schmidtko, and Andreas Oschlies

Abstract. The El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) with its warm (El Niño) and cold (La Niña) phase has strong impacts on marine ecosystems off Peru. This influence extends from changes in nutrient availability to productivity and oxygen levels. While several studies have demonstrated the influence of ENSO events on biological productivity, less is known about their impact on oxygen concentrations. In situ observations along the Peruvian and Chilean coast have shown a strong water column oxygenation during the 1997/1998 strong El Niño event. These observations suggest a deepening of the oxygen minimum zone (OMZ) along the continental shelf. However, due to reduced spatial coverage of the existing in situ observations, no studies have yet demonstrated the OMZ response to El Niño events in the whole Eastern Tropical South Pacific (ETSP). Furthermore, most studies have focused on El Niño events. Much less attention was given to the oxygen dynamics under La Niña influence. Here, we provide a comprehensive analysis of the ENSO influence on OMZ dynamics. Interannual variability of the OMZ during the period 1990–2010 is derived from a regional coupled physical-biogeochemical model forced with realistic atmospheric and lateral boundary conditions. Our results show a reduction of the vertical extent and a deepening of suboxic waters (SW) during the El Niño phase. During the La Niña phase, there is a vertical expansion of SW. These fluctuations in OMZ extent are due to changes in oxygen supply into its core depth mainly from lateral margins. During the El Niño phase, the enhanced lateral oxygen supply from the subtropics is the main reason for the reduction of SW in both coastal and offshore regions. During the La Niña phase, the oxygenated subtropical waters are blocked by the poleward transport along the southern margin of the OMZ. Consequently, oxygen concentrations within the OMZ are reduced and suboxic conditions expand during La Niña. The detailed analysis of transport pathways presented here provides new insights into how ENSO variability affects the oxygen-sensitive marine biogeochemistry of the ETSP.

Yonss Saranga José et al.

Yonss Saranga José et al.

Yonss Saranga José et al.


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Short summary
In situ observations along the Peruvian and Chilean coasts have exhibited variability in the water column oxygen concentration. This variability, which is attributed to the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), might have implication on the vertical extension of the Eastern Tropical South Pacific (ETSP) oxygen minimum zone. Here using a coupled physical-biogeochemical model, we provide new insights into how ENSO variability affects the vertical extension of the oxygen-poor waters of the ETSP.