Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ocean Science 101: Upwelling, Downwelling, and other random acts of shrinkage

I’ve been getting a lot of questions this summer about upwelling and downwelling and while I have written a lot about the effects of these phenomenon I haven’t really took the time to sit down and explain exactly what they are…so here it goes, I will try not to get two nerdy in the explanation but hey no promises.


Most of you know or have heard the term upwelling and that it usually means that it is time to break out a thicker wetsuit, put away the boardshorts, and in some areas get ready for the combination ice-cream headache duckdive and the “claw” that your hands twist into after an extended cold water surf session. Just in case you haven’t heard of upwelling I will give you the quick and dirty definition first, which is: Upwelling is a process where cold water at the bottom of ocean is pulled from the lower depths and is brought to the ocean surface.

If you really want to get into the oceanography-nerdery there are actually 5 types of upwelling being researched by oceanographers:

1. Coastal upwelling
2. Large-scale wind-driven upwelling in the ocean interior
3. Upwelling associated with eddies
4. Topographically-associated upwelling
5. Broad-diffusive upwelling in the ocean interior.

The main types of upwelling that affect us as surfers are coastal upwelling and upwelling that are associated with eddies (which for Southern California are essentially the same thing.) more...

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