CeNCOOS Executive Summary

The Central and Northern California Ocean Observing System (CeNCOOS)
"Fostering Knowledge-Based Management of Ocean Resources"

Executive Summary

The Central and Northern California Ocean Observing System (CeNCOOS) is one of eleven regional associations within the Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) around the nation dedicated to the support of science in the service of marine ecosystem health and resource sustainability. CeNCOOS was established in 2004 in response to a growing national priority to develop and maintain a network of observing systems designed to best meet both regional and national needs for understanding processes, predicting events and developing response strategies in the maritime and coastal domains. CeNCOOS embraces the observing priorities articulated by the U.S. Ocean Commission Report, the Pew Oceans Commission Report, the state of California and the West Coast Governor's Agreement on Ocean Health. (Download Word doc)

Observing asset map for the CeNCOOS region (October 2010), including water quality stations, existing (black) and proposed (red) glider lines, and HF radar surface current mapping coverage (dashed line).   Anticipated future glider lines are shown in green.  The satellite sea surface temperature image shows the extent of the coastal upwelling zone of the California Current System.


CeNCOOS will provide the leadership and coordination necessary to develop the Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) in Central and Northern California. The IOOS will improve understanding and monitoring of our oceans by implementing the observational framework necessary to monitor the state of the coastal waters in real time. The basic data and value-added products will be made available to all marine users and managers for the benefit of the public good and conservation of our resources.

System Description

The CeNCOOS Observing systems include fixed instrumentation mounted on buoys, docks, and piers, and mobile assets carried by submersibles, ships, autonomous vehicles, aircraft and satellites. These platforms and their data streams are managed through CeNCOOS partner institutions both public and private. The observing systems also involve people whose expertise and experience is critical to the evaluation and interpretation of data streams from the coastal environment. CeNCOOS serves to coordinate and support the activities of these observing systems to provide timely assessments of ocean parameters of critical relevance to scientists, resource managers and the public. The regions targeted by CeNCOOS include, but are not limited to wetlands, bays, estuaries, beaches, the nearshore regions to the three-mile limit and the offshore region out to the limit of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Within these regions lie habitats critical to the sustainability of many important maritime resources all of which are influenced by a variety of factors. These habitats include the recently formed marine protected areas, marine sanctuaries, rocky intertidal and subtidal environments, soft and hard bottom habitats, sandy beaches, sea grass beds and habitats important for the refuge and recruitment of juvenile fish. CeNCOOS, through its participating partners, strives to provide the information necessary to apportion the physical and environmental impacts to these regions, and the habitats that reside there, to natural and anthropogenic forcing functions. These forcing functions include climate change and variability such as warming, sea level rise, ocean acidification; human impacts such as oil spills, enteric bacteria, marine pathogens, nutrient loading, coastal pollution and the rise of synthetic endocrine disrupters in nearshore environments; and natural hazards such as tsunami inundation, storms and earthquakes and harmful algal blooms.

Membership and Governance

CeNCOOS operates as a synergistic collaboration of approximately sixty academic/research institutions, federal, state and local agencies, private corporations, and non-government groups throughout California and the nation. Of these programs, thirty-seven have become a Party to CeNCOOS by signing the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA). The MOA provides structure and bylaws for governance and operations. Any group or entity embracing the goals of CeNCOOS and expressing a willingness to contribute products and information to the CeNCOOS portfolio is welcome to sign the MOA. Parties of the MOA are granted election privileges and make up the CeNCOOS Council.

CeNCOOS is governed by a 15-member Council of representatives who inform and advise an Executive Director, Coordinator, and their staff. The Council created three Working Groups based on high-priority issues in our region: Marine Operations; Marine Populations; Water Quality and Public Health. The Working Groups identify and develop project geared toward meeting our mission and goals. All are welcome to participate in the Working Group activities.

CeNCOOS is represented on the board of the National Federation of Regional Associations, the Southern California Ocean Observing System, and the Pacific Coast Ocean Observing System. CeNCOOS also provides representatives to all IOOS committees, including data management and communications, education and outreach, and modeling and analysis. CeNCOOS will seek to support the efforts of the partnership through the development of funding opportunities, coordination of data streams and partner interests, identification of stakeholder needs and resources, and the articulation of the mission and value of CeNCOOS at the State and National level.

Long-Term Goals

CeNCOOS will be recognized by the state and federal government as the definitive source of unbiased information on the health of the oceans along the central and northern California coast. This information will come from a variety of sensors and observing programs, be quality controlled and well integrated, and presented in a way which is useful and understandable to both ocean specialists and the general public. The large-scale, long-term observations provided by CeNCOOS will reveal the areas where more focused process-oriented studies are needed to fully understand the ecosystem and impact to it. In conjunction with other regional associations, an understanding of ocean processes that cross geospatial boundaries will be realized. This information will provide the basis for a national plan for sustainable recreational and commercial use of the seas which will allow for the health of the oceans to be improved and maintained for generations to come.

Download a word document of this Executive Summary here