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Climate change and wind intensification in coastal upwelling ecosystems

Science  04 Jul 2014:
Vol. 345, Issue 6192, pp. 77-80
DOI: 10.1126/science.1251635

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Strong winds, upwelling, and teeming shores

Climate warming has produced stronger winds along some coasts, a result of growing differences in temperature and pressure between land and sea. These winds cause cold nutrient-rich seawater to rise to the surface, affecting climate and fueling marine productivity. Sydeman et al. examined data from the five major world regions where upwelling is occurring. Particularly in the California, Humboldt, and Benguela upwelling systems, winds have become stronger over the past 60 years. These regions represent up to a fifth of wild marine fish catches and are hot spots of biodiversity.

Science, this issue p. 77

Abstract

In 1990, Andrew Bakun proposed that increasing greenhouse gas concentrations would force intensification of upwelling-favorable winds in eastern boundary current systems that contribute substantial services to society. Because there is considerable disagreement about whether contemporary wind trends support Bakun’s hypothesis, we performed a meta-analysis of the literature on upwelling-favorable wind intensification. The preponderance of published analyses suggests that winds have intensified in the California, Benguela, and Humboldt upwelling systems and weakened in the Iberian system over time scales ranging up to 60 years; wind change is equivocal in the Canary system. Stronger intensification signals are observed at higher latitudes, consistent with the warming pattern associated with climate change. Overall, reported changes in coastal winds, although subtle and spatially variable, support Bakun’s hypothesis of upwelling intensification in eastern boundary current systems.

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