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State of the California current 2009-2010: Regional variation persists through transition from la Niña to el Niño (and back?)


This report summarizes observations of the California Current System (CCS) from Baja California, Mexico to Oregon for the period from spring 2009 through spring 2010. During this period, changes in the state of the CCS reflected a transition from cool La Niña conditions into and through a short-lived, relatively weak El Niño event. Weaker than normal upwelling and several extended relaxation events contributed to warming over much of the CCS during summer 2009, especially in the north. Moderation of La Niña conditions in the CCS coincided with the development of El Niño conditions in the equatorial Pacific, yet manifested well in advance of any evidence for direct effects of El Niño on the CCS. Responses to El Niño in fall 2009 and winter 2009-2010 appear to have varied substantially with latitude: conditions off southern California returned to near climatological values with the decline of La Niña, and did not indicate any subsequent response to El Niño, yet the northern CCS warmed subtantially following the decline of La Niña and was strongly affected by intense downwelling during winter 2009-2010. The 2009-2010 El Niño diminished rapidly in early 2010, and upwelling off central and southern California resumed unusually early and strongly for a spring following an El Niño, but recovery from El Niño in early 2010 appears to be less robust in the northern CCS. Thus, despite dynamic changes in the overall state of the California Current, 2009-2010 continued the recent pattern of strong regional variability across the CCS.

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