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February 18, 2007 02:27PM
http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,2015762,00.html

Ocean 'dead zones' spell disaster as wind patterns change

A few months ago, the clear blue Pacific Ocean waters off the coast of Oregon suddenly turned a thick greenish brown. A swell of nutrients produced a bizarre blooming of plankton that reached levels never seen before by scientists. Then the plankton died and sank, causing oxygen levels in the water to plummet to zero.

The living ocean was transformed into a dead zone. Scientists conducted a submarine survey and found only the bodies of crabs and marine worms scattered across the ocean floor. There were no signs of any fish. Nothing had survived the cataclysm............

...........Marine researchers are convinced the evidence points to one culprit: global warming. Man-made changes to the climate are throwing previously predictable seasonal winds out of kilter. 'We finger the winds as the important culprit, but we do not know definitively why these winds are changing,' said Professor Jane Lubchenco from Oregon State University. 'However, we know the changes are what would be expected under climate change scenarios, and climate change is a viable hypothesis. We should expect more surprises.'

Seasonal winds blowing across the sea affect ocean currents by pushing away surface water, which is then replaced by colder water from below. But warmer land temperatures result in higher pressures and stronger winds, which in turn have an impact on currents, said the scientists. Normally these effects were predictable, but recently the system had become unstable and volatile - a pattern that mirrors climate change models. 'Wild fluctuations in the intensity of ocean upwellings are wreaking havoc with ecosystems,' added Lubchenco. 'We're seeing extreme distortions on both sides of the norm. This is a system that is out of kilter. It's fluctuating rapidly.'......................
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