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Spatial and temporal variability in oceanographic and meteorologic forcing along Central California and its implications on nearshore processes

January 1, 2007

In the past two decades, the understanding of the important large-scale phenomena (El Niño, upwelling, California current, etc) that drive physical, chemical, and biological processes along the US West Coast has greatly improved. However, the ability to predict the influence of annual and inter-annual events on a regional scale still remains limited. High-resolution hourly data from 6 National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) buoys deployed since the early 1980's off Central California were analyzed to improve our understanding of spatial and temporal variability of oceanographic and meteorologic forcing along the coastline. Seasonal to inter-annual trends in wave height, wave period, sea level barometric pressure, sea-surface temperature, and wind direction were identified, as were significant departures in these trends during El Niño and La Niña periods. The results suggest there are increasing wave heights and wave periods, decreasing sea level barometric pressures and variability in sea-surface temperatures, and increasingly variable winds off Central California between 1980 and 2002. The impact of these climatic trends on coastal physical, geological and biologic processes will also be addressed.