Northwest Fisheries Science Center

Newportal Blog

A gateway to oceanographic adventures from the Newport Line and beyond

Blog Entries for April 2016

Warm water phytoplankton species

By Xiuning Du
Posted on April 19, 2016


Figure 1. Diatom Planktoniella sol: Oceanic, most common in tropical and subtropical seas.

While phytoplankton abundance and species richness were low in January 2016, both significantly increased from February (See earlier blog post: Winter phytoplankton bloom) continued to be high in March. The phytoplankton community during this late winter period was numerically dominated by cold-water and cosmopolitan species but the February and March sampling also show a few warm-water forms of phytoplankton that have rarely been spotted in our previous biweekly samplings. Some of these warm water species (see the list below) have been noted from waters of southern and central coasts of California during the EI Niño event of 1957-1958 (Balech 1960, Bolin and Abbott 1962).

Figure 2. Diatom Chaetoceros atlanticus var. neapolitana: oceanic, more southerly in distribution, up to 34,000 cells per liter off southern California and abundant in February and March (Cupp 1943).


A specific ecotype of phytoplankton species is largely observation- and geography- dependent, being associated with specific water mass properties, e.g. ranges of temperature and salinity. Warm-water forms of phytoplankton are more common in the southern portions of the California Current ecosystem compared to coastal waters off Oregon and Washington. Southern species appeared off Oregon is either in southern coastal/offshore water carried north to Oregon through Davidson Current or oceanic offshore water off Oregon advected onshore with wind-driven Ekman transport. Northward transport is common during winter downwelling season when southerly/southwesterly winds prevail along the west coast of US, and is enhanced during EI Niño events. During the past few months, nearly continuous south/southwest winds were blowing off Newport indicating northward and onshore flow patterns dominated on the Oregon coast. Upper water column temperature was constantly above 11°C and increased above 12 degree at the end of March in the inner shelf waters. The nearshore warming in March favored the survival and growth of the warmer water forms of phytoplankton.

Figure 3. Diatom: Chaetoceros didymus var. produberans: neritic, south temperate, rare compared to type.

The observed warmer water species: Diatoms Planktoniella sol (Figure 1), Chaetoceros atlanticus var. neapolitana (Figure 2), Chaetoceros didymus var. produberans (Figure 3), Chaetoceros brevis (neritic, south temperate to subtropical) , Chaetoceros peruvianus (Figure 4), Chaetoceros curvisetus (neritic, south temperate), Chaetoceros lorenzianus (neritic, tropical and temperate, the only exceptional one quantitatively abundant); dinoflagellates Ceratium azoricum (Figure 5), Ceratium platycorne (prefer oceanic oligotrophic waters), Ceratium pentagonum (oceanic, warm temperate to tropical waters) and Dinophysis tripos (warm temperate to tropical waters).

Figure 4. Diatom Chaetoceros peruvianus: oceanic, south temperate to warm seas.

North winds off Oregon blew consistently from 29 March through 10 April suggesting that the upwelling season might have been initiated and spring is upon us. Will these warm water species be completely gone soon? Or they will continue wonder around for a bit longer time or even some new types of warm water forms will show up? A big south-westerly storm has been blowing for the past few days so will that send the ecosystem back to a “winter” state? We will continue our updates.

Figure 5. Dinoflagellate Ceratium azoricum: warm water.

Tagged: NH Line

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The El Niño has arrived!

By Jennifer Fisher
Posted on April 1, 2016


You all may be thinking….what? The El Niño has been here for awhile now. The weather has been incredibly wet and we often hear about El Niño in the news. But, while the wet weather might be indicative of an El Niño pattern, we have not observed the expression of the El Niño in the ocean off Newport Oregon until our recent trip aboard the F/V Timmy Boy on March 26, 2016.

The water has been warm since the Fall of 2014 from the “Warm Blob” and we have observed many subtropical species of copepods. However, until now, these species have not been the coastal species that are transported to our area from the south that we normally see during El Niño events. But, now we are beginning to see some of these species such as Eucalanus and Rhincalanus- two copepod species that are common in the coastal waters of southern California. We also are starting to see “El Niño” type water (relatively warm and fresh) in the deep waters over the continental slope.  We should know for sure what is going on within the next few weeks. 

Stay tuned to find out what changes in the temperature, salinity, and zooplankton occur over the next few months.

Leaving the safe harbor of Newport Oregon. Matt Yergey is excited to finally be getting out to sample.
Rainbow before the rains.
Recovering a wayward buoy that had Japanese writing on it.

Tagged: NH Line, El Niño

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See more blog entries:

May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
October 2015
August 2015
July 2015