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The Wrack

The Wrack is the Wells Reserve blog, our collective logbook on the web.

Which Way the Wind Blows

Posted by | November 14, 2022 | Filed under: Opinion

In the days leading up to the first in-person NERR System conference since before the pandemic, our staff’s destination city, Seattle, had the worst air quality in the world. The “very unhealthy” condition was mainly driven by forest fires in the nearby Cascade Range, the result of climate-forced drought and an arduous stretch of unusually dry, hot weather. Just in time, though, the persistent ridge of high pressure released its grip on Puget Sound. The wind shifted, the rains came, and our Maine contingent (and their colleagues from across the country) got to breathe easy.

A simple wind shift can make all the difference. Here in Wells, summer’s hottest days can cool like clockwork when, sometime midday, the wind starts coming in off the water.

Birds (starlings) in flight and perched on a weathervane featuring a horse.

Now we’re well into autumn and approaching winter, typically the time when an active jet stream and mid-latitude storm systems bump up the average wind speeds and maximum gusts recorded by our weather station. Not only will those breezes add chill to the air, they will be adding churn to coastal waters.

Turbulence in the nearshore water column will suspend sediments and mix cooler waters into warm, signaling to lobsters (and maybe blue crabs, too—we’re looking into it) that it’s time to move offshore. The crustaceans choose to winter in relative warmth at depth, away from the cold waters roiling at the surface and swirling in estuaries.

This issue of Watermark goes to press before Election Day and reaches your mailbox after the votes have been cast. Here, too, we’ll be watching which way the wind blows.

Fifty years ago, in passing the Coastal Zone Management Act (legislation that made the Wells Reserve possible), the Senate was unanimous and the House nearly so. It’s a real wonder: Would the votes to protect the nation’s coasts be there today?

From Watermark, fall 2022

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