SCCOOS & CeNCOOS Harmful Algal Bloom Monitoring Alert Program

The California Harmful Algal Bloom Monitoring and Alert Program (HABMAP) was formed in 2008 as an ad-hoc consortium of concerned scientists, federal and state managers, and stakeholders. Since 2011, the U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) regional associations of California – Southern California Coastal Ocean Observing System (SCCOOS) and Central and Northern California Ocean Observing System (CeNCOOS) – have been sustaining the monitoring effort. Principal investigators (PIs) sample weekly at nine university-run or municipal pier stations from San Diego to Humboldt for a suite of HAB species and for the neurotoxin domoic acid (DA) caused by the Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) producing diatom Pseudo-nitzschia. The data were used to validate the California Harmful Algae Risk Mapping (C-HARM) System, a model developed with support from NASA Applied Sciences Program and NOAA National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) to predict when and where toxic blooms occur to better inform management decisions. 

The monthly CA HAB Bulletin, led by SCCOOS, provides a synthesis of model output, near real-time observations, and public health alerts to provide a more complete picture of the regional variability in harmful algal blooms. Click the link to subscribe to the CA HAB Bulletin listserv


You can access and visualize the data on the California Ocean Observing Systems data portal!

Ocean Observations

1. Sea Surface Temperature 6. HAB Species: 7. Other Diatoms
2. Chlorophyll-a 6.1. Alexandrium spp. 8. Other Dinoflagellates
3. Phaeophytin 6.2. Ceratium spp. 9. Total Phytoplankton
4. Nutrients: 6.3. Cochlodinium spp.  
4.1. Ammonium 6.4. Dinophysis spp.  
4.2. Nitrate 6.5. Gymnodinium spp.  
4.3. Phosphate 6.6. Lingulodinium polyedra  
4.4. Silicic Acid 6.7. Prorocentrum spp.  
5. Toxins 6.8. Pseudo-nitzschia delicatissima group  
5.1 Particulate domoic acid 6.9. Pseudo-nitzschia seriata group  
5.2 Dissolved domoic acid    

*SCCOOS and CeNCOOS do not fund all the of the above listed observations and therefore they may not be measured at each site. 

Ecosystems and Fisheries

Harmful algal bloom (HAB) events threaten human health, living marine resources, and ecosystem health. Domoic acid (DA), a neurotoxin produced by some diatom species of the genus Pseudo-nitzschia, is responsible for frequent large-scale marine mammal and seabird mortalities along California’s coasts due to its accumulation in marine food webs (e.g., sardines and anchovies) and subsequent exposure in top predators. California sea lions, Zalophus californianus, are among the most frequent marine mammal victims of DA poisoning. Marine mammal strandings presenting with neurological symptoms (e.g., lethargy, disorientation and seizures) are often associated with DA, and if not treated, will cause death. Massive toxic blooom events led to the mass mortality event for marine mammals in the Southern California Bight during 2002, 2006, 2007, and 2017. 

Several rehabilitation centers throughout the state are working to rescue and rehabilitate sick and injured marine mammals including the Northcoast Marine Mammal Center (NMMC), The Marine Mammal Center (TMMC), Channel Islands Marine Wildlife Institute (CIMWI), California Wildlife Center (CWC), Marine Mammal Care Center Los Angeles (MMCC-LA), Marine Animal Rescue (MAR), Pacific Marine Mammal Center (PMMC), and SeaWorld

Water Quality

Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) Research: HAB monitoring and forecasting provides an operational warning system for HAB events. Monitoring provided by individually funded HABs stations throughout the state of California can prevent human illness by providing an early warning system for fisheries and for marine mammal stranding networks. Advanced warning of HABs informs managers, researchers, and the public on environmental and economic threats. Gliders inform researchers about the subsurface origin of HABs. In addition, gliders provide information on thin (cryptic) layers of phytoplankton where refuge HAB populations often reside. Another application of glider data being used for HAB research is to better understand the bio-physical coupling associated with upwelling events and advection. These bio-physical processes are the drivers of the food web in Southern California.

Data Access

Principal Investigators


CalHABMAP PI's are in bold 

Hammond, S.W.Lodolo, L.Hu, S.K. & Pasulka, A.L. (2022). Methodological ‘lenses’ influence the characterization of phytoplankton dynamics in a coastal upwelling ecosystemEnvironmental Microbiology Reports1– 10.

Moreno, A. R., Anderson, C., Kudela, R., Sutula, M., Edwards, C., & Bianchi, D. (2022). Development, calibration, and evaluation of a model of Pseudo-nitzschia and domoic acid production for regional ocean modeling studies. Harmful Algae, 118, 102296.

Ollison, G. A., Hu, S. K., Hopper, J. V., Stewart, B. P., Smith, J., Beatty, J. L., ... & Caron, D. A. (2022). Daily dynamics of contrasting spring algal blooms in Santa Monica Bay (central Southern California Bight). Environmental Microbiology. DOI: 10.1111/1462-2920.16137 

Croteau A (2021). Using Landsat 8 Satellite Imagery to Analyze Biogeochemical Constituents in the Waters of the San Francisco Bay Area and Beyond.

Kahru M, Anderson C, Barton AD, Carter ML, Catlett D, Send U, Sosik HM, Weiss EL, Mitchell BG (2021). Satellite detection of dinoflagellate blooms off California by UV reflectance ratios. Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene 9(1).

Barth A, Walter RK, Robbins I, Pasulka A (2020). Seasonal and interannual variability of phytoplankton abundance and community composition on the Central Coast of California. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 637:29-43.

Anderson C, Berdalet E, Kudela R, Cusack CK, Silke J, O'Rourke E., ... & Paige K (2019). Scaling up from regional case studies to a global harmful algal bloom observing system. Frontiers in Marine Science6, 250.

Smith J, Connell P, Evans R, Gellene A, Howard M, Jones B, ... & Seubert E (2018). A decade and a half of Pseudo-nitzschia spp. and domoic acid along the coast of southern California. Harmful algae, 79, 87-104. doi:10.1016/j.hal.2018.07.007

Howard M, Kudela R, McLaughlin K (2017). New insights into impacts of anthropogenic nutrients on urban ecosystem processes on the Southern California coastal shelf: Introduction and synthesis. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science. 186, Part B:163-170. (and several papers therein).

McGowan J, Deyle E, Ye H, Carter M, Perretti C, Seger K, de Verneil A, Sugihara G. (2017). Predicting coastal algal blooms in southern California. Ecology. doi/10.1002/ecy.1804/

Anderson C, Kudela R, Kahru M, Chao Y, Rosenfeld L, Bahr F, ... & Norris T (2016). Initial skill assessment of the California harmful algae risk mapping (C-HARM) system. Harmful algae59, 1-18.

Bialonski S, Caron DA, Schloen J, Feudel U, Kantz H, Moorthi SD (2016). Phytoplankton dynamics in the Southern California Bight indicate a complex mixture of transport and biology. Journal of Plankton Resesearch.

Martiny A, Talarmin A, Mouginot C, Lee J, Huang J, Gellene A, Caron D (2016). Biogeochemical interactions control a temporal succession in the elemental composition of marine communities. Limnology and Oceanography.

Kudela R, Bickel A, Carter M, Howard M, & Rosenfeld L (2015). The monitoring of harmful algal blooms through ocean observing: the development of the California Harmful Algal Bloom Monitoring and Alert Program. In Coastal Ocean Observing Systems. pp. 58-75.

Seubert E, Gellene A, Howard M, Connell P, Ragan M, Jones B, Runyan J, Caron D (2013) Seasonal and annual dynamics of harmful algae and algal toxins revealed through weekly monitoring at two coastal ocean sites off southern California, USA. Environmental Science and Pollution Research. 

Anderson C, Kudela R, Benitez‐Nelson C, Sekula‐Wood E, Burrell C, Chao Y, ... & Siegel D (2011). Detecting toxic diatom blooms from ocean color and a regional ocean model. Geophysical Research Letters38(4).

Kim H, Miller A, McGowan J, Carter M (2009). Coastal phytoplankton blooms in the Southern California Bight. Progresss in Oceanography.