Microscopic, photosynthetic phytoplankton produce seventy one percent of the world’s Oxygen. A reduction in the world’s phytoplankton population would be detrimental to all terrestrial and aquatic life. The event known as El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is a complex interplay between the ocean and the atmosphere causing a reversal in the trade winds, which in turn moves warm water masses to opposite sides of the Pacific Ocean. Better known for it’s atmospheric effects, El Nino also plays an important role in reducing the phytoplankton population. El Nino halts the process of upwelling, which moves nutrient rich water from the deep, up to the surrface. Upwelling is essential for the production of phytoplankton. Without phytoplankton as the base of the food chain in the ocean, all other aquatic life would cease to exist. El Nino can be attributed to the increase of global warming caused by Carbon Dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. El Nino will continue to increase proportionaly to the Earth’s rising temperature and thus, reducing the world’s phytoplankton population; resulting in catastrophic ecological effects as the base of the ocean’s food chain continues to be destroyed.
Winds affect upwelling. Winds that blow along the coasts of North and South America drag the water along with them. “The Earth’s rotation then deflects the resulting surface currents away from the coastlines.” (Wallace 11) Because the surface water moves away, colder, nutrient-rich water comes up from below and replaces the previous warm water, a phenomenon known as upwelling. (Wallace 11) Basically, the wind blows towards the equator and the rotation of the Earth pulls the water away from land similar to the way a cube of ice stays in one place as you rotate a glass of water. The glass could be interpreted as the Earth, and the ice cube as the mass of water. Relative to the glass, the ice or water stays in one spot as the glass or Earth rotates around.
The winds that blow along the equator also affect the properties of upwelled water and also the food chain. “Without wind, the dividing layer between the warm surface water and the deep cold water, known as the thermocline, would be nearly flat; but the winds drag the surface water westward, raising the thermocline nearly all the way up to the surface in the east and depressing it in the west. The cold water below the thermocline is rich in nutrients.