What is the California Current? (with photos)

The California Current runs along the Pacific coast of North America.

The California Current is an ocean current in the North Pacific that runs along the West Coast of the United States, moving southward until it reaches Baja, at which point it begins to float westward. This current is one of a series of boundary currents that move along Earth’s continents. The California Current is an example of an eastern boundary current because it borders land in the east.

California’s foggy days are caused in part by the California Current.

The current originates in the North Pacific, where the water is very cold. It is relatively shallow, carrying a load of cold water that encourages upwelling as it passes along the coast. As it reaches the warmer southern waters, the cold water begins to sink, allowing warm water to rise and generating a warm current that travels across the Pacific Ocean. This current is linked to a western boundary current that runs up the coast of Asia before looping around North America again.

The series of interconnected currents that encircle the North Pacific is known as the North Pacific Gyre. These currents play an important role in ocean circulation and in the economies along the coasts where they pass. In California, for example, the California Current contributes to one of the most productive marine ecosystems in the world, with nutrient-rich water and impressive biological diversity. The southward flow of the current also explains why the waters off the coast of California are cooler than waters at similar latitudes on the east coast of America.

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California’s famous foggy days are in part caused by the movements of the California Current, illustrating another way it impacts terrestrial life. Currents in the North Pacific Gyre also determine where floating objects in the ocean end up over time, as they move along this spiraling group of currents like soap bubbles caught in the whirlpool of water around a drain.

It is important to note that there are other offshore currents besides the California Current, and sometimes they change direction. Immediately off the coast, smaller currents and eddies push the water in various directions. These currents are widely studied by oceanographers and others interested in ocean currents, such as rescue services who want to narrow down the potential location of an invalid ship, a swimmer in distress, or the body of someone who has drowned.

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