Miller, A. J., J. C. McWilliams, N. Schneider, J. S. Allen, J. A. Barth, R. C. Beardsley, F. P. Chavez, T. K. Chereskin, C. A. Edwards, R. L. Haney,
K. A. Kelly, J. C. Kindle, L. N. Ly, J. R. Moisan, M. A. Noble, P. P. Niiler, L. Y. Oey, F. B. Schwing, R. K. Shearman, and M. S. Swenson, 1999:
Observing and modeling the California Current System.
Eos, Transactions, American Geophysical Union, 80, 533-539.
The California Current System (CCS) is one of the best sampled ocean regions, yet it remains obscurely understood and inadequately sampled. Technological advances in ocean modeling and observational techniques can now change this situation. Enhanced understanding of the features and dynamics of the CCS can aid fisheries and wildlife management, prediction and abatement of pollution and toxic phytoplankton blooms, atmospheric and climate change forecasts, and shipping and military operations.
The CCS extends up to 1000 km offshore from Oregon to Baja California and encompasses a southward meandering surface current, a poleward undercurrent and surface countercurrents. It exhibits high biological productivity, diverse regional characteristics, and intricate eddy motions that have puzzled oceanographers for decades. CCS phenomena must be observed with better temporal and spatial resolution to understand and predict physical and biological processes for various applications.
An example of the practical importance of the CCS is that the U.S. Navy uses it as a testbed for developing coupled ocean-atmosphere models for operationally relevant analysis and prediction. The environmental quantities of interest include sea-surface and air temperature; atmospheric humidity; location and structure of upper ocean fronts and eddies; biogeochemical distributions; sea-surface roughness; and near-shore waves and currents.
Many of these quantities are also important for resource and environmental management. Depending on the application, the time scales of interest range from days (such as when spills and blooms occur) to decades (such as when considering fisheries management or studying climate change).
Trying to understand and predict these environmental quantities raises fundamental questions about the physical and ecological processes in the CCS. A recent workshop focused on CCS models and observations and where they should lead. Highlights are discussed here. Ultimately CCS modeling may lead to a community CCS model (or models), which could be used for nowcasting and forecasting purposes as well as for basic scientific investigations.