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At a coastal upwelling zone, wind blow parallel to a coast, water at the ocean surface moves away from the coast and deep water rises up to take its place.
Courtesy of NOAA

Ocean Upwelling

There are places in the ocean where water from the deep sea travels up to the surface. These are called areas of upwelling. The deep waters can have a large influence on marine life and the climate too.

Upwelling can happen where wind blows along a coast. The wind causes water at the ocean surface to move away from the coast. When surface water moves away from the coast, water from deeper in the ocean rises up and takes its place.

The water that is moved up to the surface is usually cold and rich in nutrients. When the deep water gets to the surface, these extra nutrients are snatched up by plankton that floats in the ocean. Tiny animals gobble up the plankton and fish eat the tiny animals. This means that upwelling areas are full of marine life.

Upwelling also happens as a part of El Niņo (ENSO) events in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Ecuador and Peru. This has an impact on weather, changing where and when rain falls in many areas of the world.

Downwelling is the opposite of upwelling - surface waters pushing down into deeper areas of the ocean. This happens when winds cause water to push toward a coast and then deeper in the ocean.

Last modified September 18, 2008 by Lisa Gardiner.

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The Spring 2010 issue of The Earth Scientist, focuses on the ocean, including articles on polar research, coral reefs, ocean acidification, and climate. Includes a gorgeous full color poster!

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