We use time-series analyses to characterize the effects of recent climate variability upon the local physical conditions at 11 study sites along the northern-central coast of Chile (29–34°S). Environmental indices show that the 1° Bakun upwelling index in this coastal region has fluctuated in time, starting from a stable period around the 1980's, peaking during the mid 90s, decreasing during the next ten years and increasing at a steep rate since 2010. Upwelling intensity decreased with increasing latitude, showing also a negative correlation with climate patterns (El Niño3 sea surface temperature-SST anomalies and the Multivariate El Niño Index). We hypothesize that the impacts of climate variability on upwelling events seem to be spatially heterogeneous along the region. Non-sheltered locations and, particularly, sites on prominent headlands show an immediate (lag = 0) and negative correlation between local SST, upwelling events and wind stress. We suggest that near-shore thermal conditions are closely coupled to large-scale forcing of upwelling variability and that this influence is modulated through local topographic factors.
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