Climate Change and Oceans

How do ocean currents affect cloud formation?

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.These nano-particles, likely formed from the gases emitted by the ocean, grow in the atmosphere to become what are called cloud condensation nuclei — the seed particles that can grow into cloud droplets and eventually rain. Anthony Wexler, director of the Air Quality Research Center, measures new particle formation along the coast of California. His research shows the relationship among ocean currents, nutrient supply to the coastal zone, biological productivity, biogenic emissions, chemical reactions in the atmosphere, formation of new particles and cloud properties.

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

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. Ian Faloona, professor of land, air, and water resources, is interested in monitoring such gases along the coast to study the connections between changes in their amounts and the health of the California 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?

Winds force the upwelling of cold nutrient-rich water along coasts. As the earth warms, the wind will change and the supply of nutrients 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. John Largier, a professor working in the Bodega Marine Laboratory and environmental science and policy, and collaborators are focused on what this means at the synoptic time scale, and how rhythms will change at locations in California, Chile and South Africa. Largier is interested in whether there might be complex localized responses or whether similar coastal waters will all become more or less productive.