State of the California Current Ecosystem report in 2022: a tale of two La Niñas

Publication date
February 01, 2024
Andrew R. Thompson, Rasmus Swalethorp, Michaela Alksne, Jarrod A. Santora, Elliott L. Hazen, Andrew Leising, Erin Satterthwaite, William J. Sydeman, Clarissa R. Anderson, Toby D. Auth, Simone Baumann-Pickering, Timothy Baumgardner, Eric P. Bjorkstedt, Steven J. Bograd, Noelle M. Bowlin, Brian J. Burke, Elizabeth A. Daly, Heidi Dewar, John C. Field, Jennifer L. Fisher, Newell Garfield, Ashlyn Gidding, Ralf Goericke, Richard Golightly, Eliana Gómez-Ocampo, Jose Gomez-Valdes, John A. Hildebrand, Kym C. Jacobson, Michael G. Jacox, Jaime Jahncke, Michael Johns, Joshua M. Jones, Bertha Lavaniegos, Nate Mantua, Gerard J. McChesney, Megan E. Medina, Sharon R. Melin, Luis Erasmo Miranda, Cheryl A. Morgan, Catherine F. Nickels, Rachael A. Orben, Jessica M. Porquez, Antonella Preti, Roxanne R. Robertson, Daniel L. Rudnick, Keith M. Sakuma, Carley R. Schacter, Isaac D. Schroeder, Lauren Scopel, Owyn E. Snodgrass, Sarah Ann Thompson, Pete Warzybok, Katherine Whitaker, William Watson, Edward D. Weber, Brian Wells

2022 marked the third consecutive La Niña and extended the longest consecutive stretch of negative Oceanic Niño Index since 1998-2001. While physical and biological conditions in winter and spring largely adhered to prior La Niña conditions, summer and fall were very different. Similar to past La Niña events, in winter and spring coastal upwelling was either average or above average, temperature average or below average, salinity generally above average. In summer and fall, however, upwelling and temperature were generally average or slightly below average, salinity was close to average and chlorophyll a was close to average. Again, as during prior La Niña events, biomass of northern/southern copepods was above/below average off Oregon in winter, and body size of North Pacific krill in northern California was above average in winter. By contrast, later in the year the abundance of northern krill dropped off Oregon while southern copepods increased and body sizes of North Pacific krill fell in northern California. Off Oregon and Washington abundances of market squid and Pacific pompano (indicators of warm, non-typical La Niña conditions) were high. In the 20th century, Northern anchovy recruitment tended to be high during cold conditions, but despite mostly warm conditions from 2015-2021 anchovy populations boomed and remained high in 2022. Resident seabird reproductive success, which tended in the past to increase during productive La Niña conditions was highly variable throughout the system as common murre and pelagic cormorant, experienced complete reproductive failure at Yaquina Head, Oregon while Brandt’s cormorant reproduction was average. At three sampling locations off central California, however, common murre reproduction was close to or above average while both pelagic and Brandt’s cormorant were above average. California sealion reproduction has been above average each year since 2016, and pup weight was also above average in 2022, likely in response not to La Niña or El Niño but continuous high abundance of anchovy. The highly variable and often unpredictable physical and biological conditions in 2022 highlight a growing recognition of disconnects between basin-scale indices and local conditions in the CCE. “July-December 2022 is the biggest outlier from individual “strong” La Niña (events) ever going back to the 50s.” – Nate Mantua

Frontiers in Marine Science
California Current