COAST award to study the California Current System

A new project in the Physical Oceanography lab, Remote forcing of seasonal currents in the California Current System, has been funded by the CSU Council on Ocean Affairs, Science and Technology (COAST) grant development program. This work will provide research opportunities for students, and help identify key locations and processes that can be targeted in future field studies.

The California Current System (CCS) serves as a confluence of water masses with diverse physical and biogeochemical characteristics, representing a broad range of sources throughout the Pacific Ocean. Although a great deal of past research has been devoted to characterizing this part of the ocean, the physical mechanisms that drive seasonal currents remain elusive. For example, multiple theories have been proposed for the generation of poleward currents that flow opposite to the direction of the prevailing wind. This study investigates the theory that remote winds as far away as the equator drive seasonal variability in the CCS, both near the coast and far offshore. Large scale waves, with wavelengths of hundreds to thousands of kilometers, can transmit energy along the coast and across the ocean.


The goal of this study is to conduct a synthesis of existing long-term data sets to 1) detect evidence of remote forcing at seasonal time scales in the CCS, 2) identify key sites where the remote forcing process is interrupted, and 3) create an experimental design for a focused process study in the field. Data from the multiple observational networks along the coast will be crucial for this project.