Seasons in the Sea - A month-by-month guide to Central California sea life

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Monterey Bay; Image credit: NASA


for August

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The beginning of the Oceanic Season

By August, strong northwest winds and upwelling events have become relatively frequent, which allows water near shore to become warmer and more stable. "Relaxation" events and meanders in the California current bring offshore water toward shore. Pennate diatoms, dinoflagellates, and picoplankton dominate the phytoplankton.

Tongues of water from the California Current flow toward the coast, bringing clear, salty oceanic water and oceanic animals such as albacore tuna, jellies, and leatherback sea turtles.

Krill reach adulthood and form huge, dense schools, attracting an abundance of blue whales and humpback whales, as well as other marine mammals and seabirds.

The growth of the kelp canopy slows, though the community of algae and animals within the kelp forest remains lush and diverse. Many types of young rockfish are living in the kelp, feeding on the animals on the kelp canopy and holdfasts.

The wave climate becomes even less active, as northwest wind waves subside. Occasional large swells from the south can churn up the kelp beds, but do not usually do as much damage as winter storms.

Young crabs, worms, sea stars, and other tide-pool animals begin to settle in the tidepools after drifting around as larvae following the early summer reproductive frenzies. Many seaweeds begin to form reproductive structures or release gametes.

Estuaries support large numbers of breeding leopard sharks, as well as the crabs on which they feed. Migrant birds begin to use estuaries as feeding stops on their return from nesting in Canada and Alaska. Sandy beaches also see the first beach birds returning from nesting in the far north.

    All text © Kim Fulton-Bennett                About            Contact            Disclaimer