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Thesis Defense

An Examination of Hydrography and Sea Level in the Gulf of Alaska: Tidal to Decadal Timescales

Wednesday, 10 December, 3:30 pm
James Kelly, MS Oceanography Candidate
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Tom Weingartner

Fairbanks—201 O'Neill • Seward—101 Rae Building • Juneau—101 Lena Point bldg. • Other—Pexip Rm2

There is potential to predict the transport of the Alaska Coastal Current (ACC) with easily obtainable historical time series data, such as sea level, hydrography, and winds in the Gulf of Alaska (GOA), which could be a low cost, near realtime prediction tool. To achieve this goal, an understanding of coastal sea level variability in the Gulf of Alaska is required. I quantify the variability of Seward sea level and hydrography (temperature and salinity) at the oceanic station GAK1, for timescales from the tidal to the decadal for the period 1970-2010. Semidiurnal and diurnal tides account ~97% of GOA sea level variance and the local influence of atmospheric pressure (the inverted barometer effect) accounts for ~2% of GOA sea level variance. Hence, I focus on the remaining ~1% of sea level variance, which is largely due to freshwater discharge (a steric influence) and wind. For periods from 2-90 days, winds account for the majority of Seward sea level variance, while the steric height contribution is statistically significant but small. However at the annual cycle steric effects control Seward sea level variability primarily due to freshwater discharge and accumulation, while the influence of wind is insignificant. Long-term hydrographic trends indicate a statistically significant trend toward a warmer, fresher, and more stratified shelf, while long-term sea level trends are decreasing due to continental rebound from glacial loss.