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Stronger coastal winds due to climate change may have far-reaching effects
Date:12/19/2008

speeds of about 5 meters per second, Snyder said. One effect of these increased winds may be earlier and more intense upwelling of cold water along the coast.

Upwelling is generally a good thing, bringing up nutrient-rich deep water to support thriving coastal ecosystems. But researchers think too much upwelling may be causing the massive "dead zone" that has begun to appear with alarming regularity off the Oregon coast. According to an earlier study by Oregon researchers, intense upwelling driven by stronger, more persistent winds stimulates excessive growth of phytoplankton (microscopic algae), which ultimately sink to the bottom and decompose, sucking oxygen out of the bottom waters.

Snyder said these conditions may become more prevalent in the future, and stronger winds all along the coast may cause the Oregon dead zone to expand into California waters.

Strong winds can also create extremely hazardous fire conditions, as was seen this fall in Southern California. On the positive side, strong winds would be good for the growing wind energy industry. Snyder also noted that an enhanced sea breeze during the warm months of the year has a cooling effect along the coast. Such a cooling trend could have many ramifications, particularly for coastal species adapted to seasonal changes in temperatures and fog, he said.


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Contact: Tim Stephens
stephens@ucsc.edu
831-459-2495
University of California - Santa Cruz
Source:Eurekalert

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