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Climate Change

Science Supporting Policy in California and Beyond

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Climate changes will induce changes in winds, currents, waves, land runoff and sealevel. These factors in turn will influence water quality, ecological productivity, shorelines, fisheries and wildlife in the coastal waters of California. (John Largier/UC Davis)

Oceans

How do ocean currents affect cloud formation, both of which are influenced by climate change?

Anthony Wexler, Director, Air Quality Research Center, measures new particle formation along the coast of California.  These nano-particles, likely formed from gases emitted by the ocean, grow in the atmosphere to become so called “cloud condensation nuclei” – the seed particles that can grow into cloud droplets and eventually rain. The currents off the coast of California bring nutrients to the coastal zone, which cause rapid plant and animal growth (including fish). The growth emits compounds into the atmosphere that then form the new particles that are observed.  This research shows the relationship between ocean currents, nutrient supply to the coastal zone, biological productivity, biogenic emissions, chemical reactions in the atmosphere, formation of new particles and cloud properties—all of which occur along the coast of California.

How will climate change influence weather along the coast and the health of California marine ecosystems?

Ian Faloona; land, air, and water resources; studies various aspects of weather and air chemistry that are influenced by our changing climate. Faloona is particularly interested in the California Current and its high biological productivity in response to changes in wind speeds along the coast. Constantly changing features of the coastal environment can have profound impacts on the exchanges between the atmosphere and ocean of many climatically important trace gases, such as carbon dioxide, dimethylsulfide, methane, and nitrous oxide. He is interested in monitoring such gases along the coast to study the connections between changes in their amounts and the health of the coastal ecosystem, regional air quality, and local weather. He investigates air chemistry in many other environments and searches for possible atmospheric feedbacks between the biosphere and the climate system.

How will changes in climate affect the productivity of coastal waters in California, Chile and South Africa?

John Largier, Bodega Marine Lab and environmental science and policy, is intrigued by the movement of water in the coastal ocean. His research group works on how winds force the upwelling of cold nutrient-rich water along the coast of California. As the earth warms, the wind climate will change and this supply of fertilizer to the light-filled surface waters may no longer be so reliable. Changes in nutrient delivery result in changes in primary production, which is fundamental to marine life and also a critical component of the carbon cycle. Since it is the alternating upwelling and relaxation of winds that is most important to coastal productivity, Largier and collaborators are focused on what this means at the synoptic time scale, and how rhythms will change at locations in California, and Chile, and South Africa. He is interested in whether there might be complex localized responses or whether similar coastal waters will all become more or less productive.