Dr. Cara Wilson

Research Interests
Recent Publications
Research Oceanographer
NOAA/NMFS/SWFSC Environmental Research Division
1352 Lighthouse Ave.
Pacific Grove, CA 93950



Research Interests

My current research interests are in using satellite data (primarily, but not exclusively, SeaWiFS and MODIS surface chlorophyll and TOPEX SSH) to examine bio-physical coupling in the surface ocean on global to regional scales, and over seasonal and interannual timescales. Some of my recent and current work is summarized below. I'm also involved with representing NMFS's satellites needs within NOAA.

Bio-Physical Coupling in the Atlantic

Three-year (2003-2005) project funded through NASA to study bio-physical coupling in the Atlantic. This project will determine the relationship between thermocline depth, sea surface height, nutrient availability, and phytoplankton blooms, and their annual to interannual scale variability, using a combination of satelite data and modeling techniques. Preliminary results show good temporal and spatial patterns of chlorophyll or phytoplankton variability in a numerical model as compared to remotely sensed observations, as seen in the figure to the right. The sea surface height variability is less well simulated, and may require more realistic model forcing. This work is in collaboration with Victoria Coles (UMCES).

EOF modes showing the seasonal spatial components for chlorophyll (top panels) and SSH (middle panels) and their principal components (bottom panels) for the satellite data (left) and for the numerical model results (right). To avoid interannual variability, the analysis was done on the climatological monthly averages of the satellite chlorophyll and SSH data, and model results using only climatological forcing.

Pacific Subtropical Blooms

SeaWiFS recorded large chlorophyll blooms in the oligotrophic North Pacific Subtropical Gyre (NPSG) near 30°N in the late summer of 1997, 1999, and 2000, as seen in the figure on the left (updated figures available on my bloom page). These blooms are distinct from the surface seasonal cycle in both timing and amplitude, and they are not associated with either SSH or SST anomalies that would be indicative of changes in subsurface structure. It is hypothesized that the chlorophyll blooms are fueled by nitrogen fixation or by biologically mediated vertical fluxes of nitrogen. GRL, 30(18), 1942, doi:10.1029/2003GL017770, 2003 and paper accepted to JMS in Oct. 2005.

Global Bio-Physical coupling

SSH and chlorophyll should be predominately negatively correlated because a smaller SSH implies a shallower thermocline which will increase the availability of nutrients for biological production. The global distribution of this correlation, shown to the right, was examined, with emphasis on explaining the dynamics where they appear uncoupled. The strongest absolute correlations are in the Indian and Pacific basins. Positive correlations are seen in the polar region (poleward of 40°) due to light limitations driving the ecosystem rather than nutrient limitation. GRL, 29, 10.1029/2001GL014063, 2002.

Pacific ENSO Bio-Physical coupling

The impact of the 1997/1998 ENSO event on SSH and chlorophyll distributions was examined using EOF (empirical orthogonal function) analysis. The dominant chlorophyll response to the ENSO is an off-equatorial chlorophyll increase during the La Niña that extends between 2-18° latitude from the eastern Pacific to the dateline, shown to the left. The chlorophyll mode is tightly correlated to the SSH, suggesting that the chlorophyll increase is a result of the shoaling thermocline, which increases the surface nutrient supply. The better known equatorial decrease in chlorophyll during El Niño is seen in a separate EOF mode which is not correlated temporally with ENSO. Using ADCP data from the TAO/TRITON array, we showed that the cessation of the El Niño equatorial chlorophyll minimum is tied to the recommencement of the iron-rich Equatorial UnderCurrent which occurs several months prior to the termination of the El Niño. JGR, 106, 31,175-31,188, 2001.

Satellite-related Publications

Villareal, T.A. and C. Wilson (2014). A Comparison of the Pac-X Trans-Pacific Wave Glider Data and Satellite Data (MODIS, Aquarius, TRMM and VIIRS) , PLoS ONE, 9(3): e92280. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0092280 [abstract]

Wilson, C., T.A. Villareal, M.A. Brzezinski, J.W Krause and A. Y. Shcherbina (2013). Chlorophyll bloom development and the subtropical front in the North Pacific , Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 3, 1473-1488 [abstract]

Krause, J.W, M.A. Brzezinski, T.A. Villareal and C. Wilson (2013). Biogenic silica cycling during summer phytoplankton blooms in the North Pacific subtropical gyre , Deep-Sea Research-I, 71, 49-60, [abstract]

Krause, J.W., M.A. Brzezinski, T.A. Villareal and C. Wilson (2012), Increased kinetic efficiency for silicic acid uptake as a driver of summer diatom blooms in the North Pacific subtropical gyre, Limnol. Oceanogr., 57,1084-1098 [abstract]

Villareal, T.A., C.G. Brown, M.A. Brzezinski, J.W. Krause and C. Wilson (2012), Summer diatom blooms in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre: a 2008-2009, PLoS ONE, 7(4), e33109, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0033109 [abstract]

Wilson, C. (2011). Chlorophyll anomalies along the critical latitude at 30°N in the NE Pacific, Geophysical Research Letters, 38, L15603, doi:10.1029/2011GL048210 [abstract]

Villareal, T., L. Adornato, C. Wilson and C. Schoenbaechler (2011), Summer blooms of diatom-diazotroph assemblages and surface chlorophyll in the N. Pacific gyre: a disconnect, Journal of Geophysical Research, 116, C03001, doi:10.1029/2010JC006268 [abstract]

Wilson, C. (2011). The rocky road from research to operations for satellite ocean-colour data in fishery management, ICES Journal of Marine Science, doi: 10.1093/icesjms/fsq168 [abstract]

Yoder, J.A., S.C. Doney, D.A. Siegel, and C. Wilson. (2010) Study of Marine Ecosystems and Biogeochemistry Now and in the Future. Oceanography, 23(4), 128-141.

Wilson, C. (2010). Fisheries, invited chapter contribution in the Encyclopedia of Remote Sensing, Springer publications, in press.

Wilson, C., C. Chen, C. Clark, P. Fanning, M.-H. Forget, K. Friedland, E. A. Howell, C. Hu, K. Hyde, D.R. Kobayashi, A. Longhurst, B. Monger, D. Pendleton, A. Pershing, T. Platt, J.J. Polovina, N. Record, K. Sherman and L. Woodard (2009). Remote Sensing Applications to Fisheries Management in Remote Sensing in Fisheries and Aquaculture, pp 43-56, IOCCG report #8, Dartmouth, Canada.

Bundy, A. G. Borstad, J. Field, S. Groom, N. Hoepffner, C. Hu, V. Lutz and C. Wilson, C. (2009). Building Links with the Fishing, Aquaculture and Management Communities Management in Remote Sensing in Fisheries and Aquaculture, pp 89-102, IOCCG report #8, Dartmouth, Canada.

Wilson, C., J. Morales, S. Nayak, I. Asanuma and G. Feldman (2008). Ocean Colour Radiometry and Fisheries in Why Ocean Colour? The Societal Benefits of Ocean-Colour Technology, pp 47-58, IOCCG report #7, Dartmouth, Canada.

Hoepffner, N., C. Wilson, and S. Lavender (2008). Ocean Colour and Climate Change in Why Ocean Colour? The Societal Benefits of Ocean-Colour Technology, pg 103-109, IOCCG report #7, Dartmouth, Canada.

Hoepffner, N., F. Mélin, M. Dowell, J. Marra, T. Saino and C. Wilson (2008). Biogeochemical Cycles in Why Ocean Colour? The Societal Benefits of Ocean-Colour Technology, pp 31-46, IOCCG report #7, Dartmouth, Canada.

Wilson, C. and X. Qiu (2008). Global distribution of summer chlorophyll blooms in the oligotrophic gyres, Progress in Oceanography, 78, 107-134 (doi:10.1016/j.pocean.2008.05.002). [abstract]

Wilson, C., T.A. Villareal, N. Maximenko, S.J. Bograd, J.P. Montoya and C.A. Schoenbaechler (2008). Biological and physical forcings of late summer chlorophyll blooms at 30°N in the oligotrophic Pacific, Journal of Marine Systems, 69, 164-176. [abstract]

Friedl, L., C. Wilson, Y. Chao, S. Bograd and W. Turner (2006), Using Satellite Data Products to Manage Living Marine Resources, EOS, 87(41), 437.

Wilson, C., and V.J. Coles (2005). Global climatological relationships between satellite biological and physical observations and upper ocean properties, Journal of Geophysical Research, 110, c10001, doi:10.1029/2004JC002724. [abstract]

Hinke, J.T., D.G. Foley, C. Wilson and G.M. Watters (2005), Persistent habitat use by Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) in the coastal ocean , Marine Ecology Progress Series, 304, 207-220. [abstract]

Bograd, S. J., D.G. Foley, F.B. Schwing, C. Wilson, R.M. Laurs, J.J. Polovina, E.A. Howell and R.E. Brainard (2004). On the seasonal and interannual migrations of the transition zone chlorophyll front. Geophysical Research Letters, 31(17), L17204, doi:10.1029/2004GL020637.[abstract]

Coles, V.J., C. Wilson and R.R. Hood (2004). Remote sensing of new production fueled by nitrogen fixation. Geophysical Research Letters, 31, L06301, doi:10.1029/2003GL019018.[abstract]

Wilson, C. (2003) Late Summer Chlorophyll Blooms in the Oligotrophic North Pacific Subtropical Gyre. Geophysical Research Letters, 30(18), 1942, doi:10.1029/2003GL017770 [abstract]

Wilson, C. and D. Adamec (2002). A global view of bio-physical coupling from SeaWiFS and TOPEX satellite data, 1997-2001. Geophysical Research Letters, 29, 10.1029/2001GL014063. [abstract]

Wilson, C. and D. Adamec (2001). Correlations between Surface Chlorophyll and Sea-Surface Height in the Tropical Pacific during the 1997/1998 ENSO Event. Journal of Geophysical Research, 106, 31,175-31,188. [abstract]

Complete list of publications

http://www.pfeg.noaa.gov/~cwilson Last updated 20 June 2012