Upwelling’s Foggy Disposition

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Fog in on the PCH in Garrapata State Park

Fog rolls across the Pacific Coast Highway near Garrapata State Park, just south of Carmel. Photo: Arlo

Marina, California.  California’s Monterey Bay is home to one of the planet’s most active upwelling regions.  Seasonal winds moving across the ocean surface cause frigid-cold, nutrient-rich water to bubble up from the deep ocean.  This physical oceanographic process is largely responsible for the abundant wildlife that has made the Monterey Bay famous as a spectacular ocean wilderness.  As one of the most productive ocean ecosystems in the world, the food chain fueled by deep sea nutrients in the Bay allows for unparalleled numbers of whales, dolphins and porpoises, seals and sea lions, sea otters, massive schools of sardines, roaming pelagic giant fish such as sharks and molas, rich coastal kelp beds, and even grazing leatherback sea turtles.  It is one of America’s most priceless ocean treasures.

On the down side, this same seasonal upwelling floods inland onto the Monterey County coastline with thick banks of summer fog.  This year has been particularly intense, with several weeks in July and August permanently fogged in, with no break or sign of sun.   The fog itself is created from the hot summer sun hitting icy cold upwelling water, after which the accumulated fog vapor is attracted inland by the heat of the mainland.  In patches, wisps, and roaming banks, fog can be a thing of fascinating beauty and is an integral part of the character of Monterey’s coastline.  However, when the entire Peninsula is inundated in thick fog for weeks on end, it can also be depressing, monotonous, dreary and downright cold.

I’m not cut out for life in the fog.  I admit it. I’m a sun worshiper adapted to tropical climes, and living in the grey and gloomy chill of fog rubs me the wrong way.  It saddens me, and nonetheless at a time of the year when I am usually most energetic, positive and happy.  I’m a true child of summer – loving the long days and warm, BBQ-filled evenings of the season as it is known on the U.S. east coast.  But even I – Mr. Fog Hater himself – can become enthralled by the majestic beauty of upwelling weather if viewed remotely – from outside or above the brooding fog banks. As long as I am standing in a spot basked by warming rays of the Californian sun, the fog is pure mystery and magic to watch.  A mystical behemoth, rising from the sea and engulfing mountains and towns alike, it is a weather spectacle to behold in wonder.  I just don’t want to live inside of it.

The following is a very short clip of such an “outside” view of Monterey Bay’s fog in action.  I shot this on my phone while in Big Sur a few weeks back.  We were stopped along the Pacific Coast Highway, with radiant sun beaming down upon us and a monster-sized tumultuous storm of mist brewing at eye level, plummeting down sheer cliffs to the ocean below, and stretching out as the far as the eye could see.

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10 Responses to “Upwelling’s Foggy Disposition”

  1. […] fog season tapers off, jellies show up in massive numbers.  The reason is pretty simple.  The fog is generated by the summer sun hitting frigid cold water that bubbles up from the deep sea through a process called upwelling. This water from the deep is […]

  2. Doug Hall says:

    Awesome that you drink coffee and ponder upwellings. Fun topic. 😀

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