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The Spring 2011 issue of The Earth Scientist is focused on modernizing seismology education. Thanks to IRIS, you can download this issue for free as a pdf. Print copies are available in our online store.
Winds blowing along the South American coast bring cold, deep ocean water to the surface. This is one of several ways that the ocean and atmosphere in the Southeast Pacific are connected.
Courtesy of NOAA

Ocean-Atmosphere Coupling in the Southeast Pacific

There are many connections between the ocean and the atmosphere in the Southeast Pacific Ocean.

Strong winds blow north along the coast of South America. These winds stir up the ocean. That brings cold water to the surface from the deep ocean. That water has lots of nutrients that living creatures need. There are many fish and other sea creatures in this area. The water at the surface is colder in the Southeast Pacific than in most other places at similar latitudes.

The strong winds carry dry air. The cold ocean water doesn't evaporate as easily as warmer water would. The dry air and the Andes Mountains combine to make the Atacama Desert in Chile. It is one of the driest places on Earth.

There are several kinds of particles in the air in this region. Plankton in the ocean make chemicals that have sulfur in them. High winds splash ocean spray filled with sea salt into the air. The winds also carry pollution out to sea from the land. All of these particles change the way that clouds form. There are lots of clouds most of the time in this area. The clouds shade the ocean, keeping it cool.

The connections between the ocean and the atmosphere in the Southeast Pacific also cause changes in other parts of the world. Have you heard of the El Niņo and La Niņa events? The Southeast Pacific ocean and atmosphere are connected to them too.

Last modified October 27, 2008 by Jennifer Bergman.

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