What We Observe

Observing a Changing Ocean 

CeNCOOS collects, curates and disseminates many types of data about our ocean — everything from how acidic ocean waters are (pH) to water temperatures, currents and even whether there are toxic algae blooms in our region. CeNCOOS By combining measurements of coastal and ocean elements, or variables, we can begin to understand environmental systems and processes. Here are a few examples of how observations enable understanding of atmospheric conditions, ocean movement, water quality, and marine biology and ecosystems. 

Atmospheric processes

Air temperature and winds are important for understanding not just the weather on land, but also the temperature of the ocean. In California, the winds are famous driving a process called upwelling (possible link to an explainer on Upwelling). The COAMPS Model has been tailored to the Central California atmospheric processes.

          In situ measurements (https://data.cencoos.org/?ls=6999c812-20a1-fc6f-2997-244174d0eebc#map)

          COAMPS Atmospheric Model (https://www.cencoos.org/observations/models-forecasts/#COAMPS-Model)

Water Quality

Water quality is a general way to describe the chemical and physical content of the water. This can come in the form of measuring how much salt is in the water (called salinity), the temperature, how much phytoplankton are present, the amount of nutrients and dissolved oxygen in the water, or how acidic the water is. Water quality can be affected by many naturally and human-caused influences including pollution from power plants, agriculture, and even cars and highways. 

         Featured Data:
Morro Bay T-Pier Data View (

Identifying and quantifying the diversity of phytoplankton in the waters off of our coast is vital for monitoring and understand

Ocean Movement

Ocean currents and waves transport energy, heat, nutrients, and other potentially harmful substances such as pollutants and HABs throughout the ocean and onto our beaches. Measurements of the physical properties of the ocean, including wind, surface currents, temperature and salinity allows oceanographers to track the movement of ocean water from individual particles to large underwater currents. 

One important physical process on the California coast is upwelling (see above). When winds blow across the ocean surface push water away, deep nutrient rich water then rises up from beneath the surface to replace the water that was pushed away. Upwelling season and hotspots (Point Conception and Point Arena). 

Featured Data:  MUR SST Climatology (May) and COAMPS Wind Climatology (May) (https://data.cencoos.org/?ls=403b6ffa-f6c2-5003-67c8-d8caa1730ae1#map

Newly developed indices quantify the intensity of upwelling and its delivery of nutrients to the ocean surface more accurately than
NOAA’s Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services (CO-OPS) is the authoritative source for accurate, reliable, and timely tides, water
San Francisco specific tides and conditions are presented in the following links. NOAA tidal predictions for San Francisco Bay are
Sea level is rising and these trends are presented here using accurately surveyed in tide guages. NOAA Sea level trends
NOAA Storm surge predictions are available here: ESTOFS Storm surge
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) both measures and predicts tides. Links to these two products are provided below.
Waverider CDIP buoy
The coastal Data Information Program (CDIP) specializes in wave measurement, swell modeling and forecasting, and the analysis of environmental data.

Biology & Ecosystems 

The grand challenges and questions for the California Current Large Marine Ecosystem (CCLME) are related to the characteristic oceanography (i.e. upwelling), environmental variability and their interactions with society. The CCLME is one of the major Eastern Boundary Upwelling Ecosystems (EBUE) of our ocean. These EBUE have increased biological productivity, significant harvests of living marine resources (fish, squid and shellfish) and an abundance of charismatic/protected fauna (whales, seabirds, elephant seals, sharks, etc.). The animals are composed of resident species, those that spend their full life cycles in the CCLME, and highly migratory varieties, those that spend aspects of their life cycles outside of the CCLME. 

Featured Data: Krill, seabirds, groundfish… 

Marine mammal and seabird observations from the Applied California Current Ecosystem Studies program are now available through the CeNCOOS Data
Animal Telemetry Network Data portal.
California Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)
There are three National Marine Sanctuaries within the CeNCOOS region: The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Cordell Bank National Marine
Along the West Coast, the California Current plays a key role in the ocean’s productivity. Beginning off southern British Columbia,
The State Coastal Conservancy’s Living Shorelines Project in San Francisco Bay, which includes planting and then monitoring restored seagrass areas,
Kelp Forest off of Monastery Beach taken with an MPA. ©Monterey Bay Aquarium, photo by Patrick Webster
California's network of marine protected areas (MPAs) serves to protect and manage the diversity and abundance of marine life, the