Patterns and processes in the California Current System

Checkley, DM, Barth JA.  2009.  Patterns and processes in the California Current System. Progress in Oceanography. 83:49-64.

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climate-ocean variability, Coastal upwelling, currents, detecting regime shifts, el-nino, northern california, regions, sardine sardinops-sagax, sea-surface temperature, southern-california, trapped wave theory, wind-driven


The California Current System (CCS) is forced by the distribution of atmospheric pressure and associated winds in relation to the west coast of North America. In this paper, we begin with a simplified case of winds and a linear coast, then consider variability characteristic of the CCS, and conclude by considering future change. The CCS extends from the North Pacific Current (similar to 50 degrees N) to off Baja California, Mexico (similar to 15-25 degrees N) with a major discontinuity at Point Conception (34.5 degrees N). Variation in atmospheric pressure affects winds and thus upwelling. Coastal, wind-driven upwelling results in nutrification and biological production and a southward coastal jet. Offshore, curl-driven upwelling results in a spatially large, productive habitat. The California Current flows equatorward and derives from the North Pacific Current and the coastal jet. Dominant modes of spatial and temporal variability in physical processes and biological responses are discussed. High surface production results in deep and bottom waters depleted in oxygen and enriched in carbon dioxide. Fishing has depleted demersal stocks more than pelagic stocks, and marine mammals, including whales, are recovering. Krill, squid, and micronekton are poorly known and merit study. Future climate change will differ from past change and thus prediction of the CCS requires an understanding of its dynamics. Of particular concern are changes in winds, stratification, and ocean chemistry. (C) 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.