Time series of surface chlorophyll a concentration (Chl) and colored dissolved organic matter (CDOM) derived from the Ocean Color and Temperature Sensor and Sea-Viewing Wide Field-of-View Sensor were evaluated for the California Current area using regional algorithms. Satellite data composited for 8-day periods provide the ability to describe large-scale changes in surface parameters. These changes are difficult to detect based on in situ observations alone that suffer from undersampling the large temporal and spatial variability, especially in Chl. We detected no significant bias in satellite Chl estimates compared with ship-based measurements. The variability in CDOM concentration was significantly smaller than that in Chl, both spatially and temporally. While being subject to large interannual and short-term variations, offshore waters (100–1000 km from the shore) have an annual cycle of Chl and CDOM with a maximum in winter-spring (December-March) and a minimum in late summer. For inshore waters the maximum is more likely in spring (April-May). We detect significant increase in both Chl and CDOM off central and southern California during the La Niña year of 1999. The trend of increasing Chl and CDOM from October 1996 to June 2000 is statistically significant in many areas.
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