Characterization of the deep-water surface wave variability in the California current region

Villas Bôas, AB, Gille ST, Mazloff MR, Cornuelle BD.  2017.  Characterization of the deep-water surface wave variability in the California current region. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans.

Date Published:



4275 Remote sensing and electromagnetic processes, 4504 Air/sea interactions, 4560 Surface waves and tides, california current, expansion fan winds, satellite altimetry, surface waves, SWOT


Surface waves are crucial for the dynamics of the upper ocean not only because they mediate exchanges of momentum, heat, energy, and gases between the ocean and the atmosphere, but also because they determine the sea state. The surface wave field in a given region is set by the combination of local and remote forcing. The present work characterizes the seasonal variability of the deep–water surface wave field in the California Current region, as retrieved from over two decades of satellite altimetry data combined with wave buoys and wave model hindcast (WaveWatch III). In particular, the extent to which the local wind modulates the variability of the significant wave height, peak period, and peak direction is assessed. During spring/summer, regional–scale wind events of up to 10 m/s are the dominant forcing for waves off the California coast, leading to relatively short period waves (8-10 s) that come predominantly from the north–northwest. The wave climatology throughout the California Current region shows average significant wave heights exceeding 2 m during most of the year, which may have implications for the planning and retrieval methods of the Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) satellite mission.