Ocean upwelling becoming more intense with a changing climate

Ocean winds drive upwelling and productivity along certain coastlines. (photo: Ron LaValley)
Ocean winds drive upwelling and productivity along the eastern edges of some ocean basins. (photo: Ron LaValley)

Our Washington coastline is one of the most prolific and productive in the world, teeming with abundant plant and animal life. In fact, much of entire U.S. west coast is the same, and we can largely thank a strong upwelling system for driving this bounty. New research published in Science has shown that upwelling in the eastern boundary current systems – meaning, the eastern edges of ocean basins across the globe where winds, currents, and geological formations create a prime environment for upwelling – has increased globally over the past 60 years. This pattern is consistent with what is predicted with climate change, and with that comes both positives and negatives for marine ecosystems. Sarah Ann Thompson, who is a visiting scholar with the College of the Environment’s Climate Impacts Group, coauthored the paper and explores the consequences of this changing pattern.

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