Intrusion of Upper Circumpolar Deep Water (UCDW), which was derived from the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC), onto the western Antarctic Peninsula (WAP) shelf region in January 1993 provided a reservoir of nutrient-rich, warmer water below 150 m that subsequently upwelled into the upper water column. Four sites, at which topographically-induced upwelling of UCDW occurred, were identified in a 50 km by 400 km band along the outer WAP continental shelf. One additional site at which wind-driven upwelling occurred was also identified. Diatom-dominated phytoplankton assemblages were always associated with a topographically-induced upwelling site. Such phytoplankton communities were not detected at any other shelf location, although diatoms were present everywhere in the 80,000 km2 study area and UCDW covered about one-third the area below 150 m. Phytoplankton communities dominated by taxa other than diatoms were restricted to transition waters between the UCDW and shelf waters, the southerly flowing waters out of the Gerlache Strait, and/or the summertime glacial ice melt surface waters very near shore. We suggest that in the absence of episodic intrusion and upwelling of UCDW, the growth requirements for elevated silicate/nitrate ratios and/or other upwelled constituents (e.g. trace metals) are not sufficiently met for diatoms to achieve high abundance or community dominance. One consequence of this is that the ice-free regions of the outer WAP continental shelf will not experience predictable spring diatom blooms. Rather, this region will experience episodic diatom blooms that occur at variable intervals and during different seasonal conditions, if the physical structuring events are occurring. Preferential drawdown of silicate relative to nitrate was observed at each of the offshore upwelling sites and resulted in a reduction in the ambient silicate:nitrate ratio relative to the corresponding value.