Upwelling brings cooler water temps and more nutrient-rich waters

Published: Jul. 10, 2015 at 2:10 PM EDT
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Upwelling occurs in the open ocean and along coastlines. (Source: NOAA)
Upwelling occurs in the open ocean and along coastlines. (Source: NOAA)

SOUTHEASTERN NORTH CAROLINA (WECT) - You may have noticed cooler ocean waters if you've been at the beach this week. We can thank the shift in winds and a process called upwelling for that.

Upwelling is process in which deep, cold water rises towards the surface. Winds blowing across the ocean push warmer surface water away from shore. The colder water then rises up from beneath the surface to replace the water that was pushed away.

Wrightsville Beach at Johnnie Mercer's Pier, for example, has seen ocean temperatures fall from 82 degrees in June to 78 degrees in July. However, this effect isn't being observed along the Brunswick County coast because west winds do not cause upwelling along south-facing beaches.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, water that rises to the surface as a result of upwelling is typically colder and is rich in nutrients. These nutrients "fertilize" surface waters, which lead to high biological productivity. This also leads to more ideal fishing grounds.

NOAA says upwelling occurs in the open ocean and along coastlines. The reverse process, called "downwelling," also occurs when wind causes surface water to build up along a coastline and the surface water eventually sinks towards the bottom.

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