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U.S. Geological Survey
Scientific Investigations Report 2005-5085

Spatial and Temporal Variations in Oceanographic and Meteorologic Forcing Along the Central California Coast, 1980-2002

By Curt D. Storlazzi and Dana K. Wingfield


Photo of powerful waves pounding shoreline

Since the 1980s, our understanding of such important large-scale phenomena as El Nio events and the California Current System that drive physical, chemical, and biologic processes along the U.S. west coast has greatly improved. However, our ability to predict the influence of annual and interannual events on a regional scale still remains limited. We have analyzed high-resolution hourly data from eight National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration buoys deployed since the early 1980s off central California to study spatial and temporal variations in oceanographic and meteorologic forcing along the coast. We identified seasonal to interannual trends in significant wave height, dominant wave period, sea-level barometric pressure, seasurface water temperature, windspeed, and wind direction were identified, as well as significant departures in these trends during El Nio and La Nia periods. The results suggest increasing wave heights and wave periods, decreasing sea-level barometric pressures and variations in sea-surface water temperatures, and increasing variations in windspeed and wind direction off central California between 1980 and 2002.

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For questions about the content of this report, contact Curt Storlazzi

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Maintained by: Michael Diggles
Created: December 16, 2005
Last modified: December 16, 2005 (mfd)