The ichthyotoxic Cochlodinium polykrikoides red tides have caused great economic losses in the aquaculture industry in the waters of Korea and other countries. Predicting outbreak of C. polykrikoides red tides 1-2 weeks in advance is a critical step in minimizing losses. In the South Sea of Korea, large C. polykrikoides red tide patches have often been recorded offshore and transported to nearshore waters. To explore the processes of offshore C. polykrikoides red tides, temporal variations in 3-dimensional (3-D) distributions of red tide organisms and environmental parameters were investigated by analyzing 4,432 water samples collected from 2-5 depths of 60 stations in the South Sea, Korea 16 times from May to Nov, 2014. In the study area, the vegetative cells of C. polykrikoides were found as early as May 7, but C. polykrikoides red tide patches were observed from Aug 21 until Oct 9. Cochlodinium red tides occurred in both inner and outer stations. Prior to the occurrence of large C. polykrikoides red tides, the phototrophic dinoflagellates Prorocentrum donghaiense (Jun 12 to Jul 11), Ceratium furca (Jul 11 to Aug 21), and Alexandrium fraterculus (Aug 21) formed red tides in sequence, and diatom red tides formed 2-3 times without a certain distinct pattern. The temperature for the optimal growth of these four red tide dinoflagellates is known to be similar. Thus, the sequence of the maximum growth rates of P. donghaiense > C. furca > A. fraterculus > C. polykrikoides may be partially responsible for this sequence of red tides in the inner stations following high nutrients input in the surface waters because of heavy rains. Furthermore, Cochlodinium red tides formed and persisted at the outer stations when NO, concentrations of the surface waters were <2 mu M and thermocline depths were >20 m with the retreat of deep cold waters, and the abundance of the competing red-tide species was relatively low. The sequence of the maximum swimming speeds and thus potential reachable depths of C. polykrikoides > A. fraterculus > C. furca > P. donghaiense may be responsible for the large C. polykrikoides red tides after the small blooms of the other dinoflagellates. Thus, C. polykrikoides is likely to outgrow over the competitors at the outer stations by descending to depths >20 m and taking nutrients up from deep cold waters. Thus, to predict the process of Cochlodinium red tides in the study area, temporal variations in 3-D distributions of red tide organisms and environmental parameters showing major nutrient sources, formation and depth of thermoclines, intrusion and retreat of deep cold waters, and the abundance of competing red tide species should be well understood.