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Rutgers MCS Logo
how we study the ocean
how does the cool room work
sensing satellites
codar antennae
LEO instruments
MET tower
upwelling index
who's in the cool?
who uses the cool room?
evolution of oceanography

How Does the COOLroom Work?
- Upwelling Index

Have you ever noticed that sometimes the ocean water is very cold on a very hot summer day? This is because winds push the warm surface water away from the coast causing cold water from the bottom of the ocean to rise to the surface, a phenomenon known as coastal upwelling.

The oceanographers in the COOLroom monitor the ocean for conditions that will cause upwelling in order to predict its potential and report it as index on the COOLroom website. Using information gathered about surface currents from CODAR instruments, about wind from the Rutgers Meteorological Tower, about sea surface temperatures from the NOAA/AVHR satellites, and about water temperature profiles from scientific boats in the area, the COOLroom oceanographers determine the likelihood for upwelling at any given time. To learn about the cycle of an upwelling event, go to the
Control Room and click the upwelling lever.

Under normal conditions, warm water stays at the surface because molecules of warm water are farther apart than molecules of cold water, making warm water less dense. Cold water, whose molecules are closer together, is more dense, and so sinks to the bottom. The layers of the different temperature between the warm and cold water are called thermoclines.

For the coastal waters off New Jersey, direct sunlight during the hot summer months from May to September warm up the surface ocean water. For an upwelling incident to occur along the coast of New Jersey, the wind must come from the southwest, pushing the warm coastal water out to sea.

So, who uses this stuff?
People other than oceanographers find the upwelling index useful. When cold water rises from the bottom, it forces nutrient-rich cold water from the ocean floor to the euphotic zone, or sunlit zone, on the surface. And in the ocean, sunlight plus nutrients equals life. Phytoplankton, the single-celled organisms on the bottom of the marine food chain, use sunlight and the nutrients found in the sediment to grow. So an upwelling causes these "little critters" to multiply or bloom, causing the water to appear murky. These conditions are not much fun for swimmers (especially since the water's also cold), but are great for fisherman. They know there will be fish in the area feeding on the phytoplankton.

Learn more about the scientists who are collaborating to expand our knowledge of the seas.

See the Upwelling forecast at the COOLroom online.