Spring upwelling: as within, so without

Big changes in the physical landscape never fail to put “big” changes in my life into perspective; this week, it’s been calming to think about seasonal shifts that affect West Marin.

On my way to work yesterday there were so many egrets hunting I pulled over to watch for a bit – there’s clearly more life in the lagoon these days. The Spring Winds have started, and Sito was telling me that the water temperature dropped dramatically over the last week. Then Sam posted this amazing piece… it’s all connected.

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The northwest winds have been howling the last few weeks. The winds can be an irritation as the waves are trashed, boating is at a minimum, and being at the beach means an exfoliating experience comes included, but, the spring winds also push a huge cold pulse of water, up from the many thousand foot depths off the continental shelf, up onto the shallow shelf that makes up our coastal zone. With the arrival of the wind borne cold nutrient rich water, and the strength of the spring and summer sun comes the fuel and the spark that sets off the food chain. Everything from the tiniest phytoplankton, crabs, shrimp, and all the way up to the blue whales, go gangbusters when the getting is good, and it's largely thanks to that springtime northwest wind. So when it's blowing a gale and you can't surf and there is sand drifting across the road, and your car is dirty as shit, there's a part of me that rejoices knowing the whole cycle is getting charged up for another go around.

A post shared by Sam Murch (@ssmurch) on

Of course I had to do a bit of nerdy research. In case a diagram like this didn’t appear in your high school and college textbooks, here you go:

Upwelling diagram.jpg

While I’d known about Monterey Bay’s upwelling, I had no idea that the area south and west of Point Reyes has one of the strongest regions of upwelling along the California coast.


So there you have it. If a few days of shifting winds can contribute to the health of ~50% of the world’s fisheries that humans depend on, I have to believe that few shifts in my own perspective can contribute significantly to my own well-being. Lots has been welling up, for sure, and so far, it’s all good.


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