Sunday, May 25, 2008

Climatic Anomalies or Climate Change?

We tried one more dive this morning at Darwin's Arch, hoping for better conditions, but it was not to be. Same kind of murky water, lots of green slime covering the sand and reef, and little or no current. So instead of two dives at Darwin, we'll head down to Wolf Island and do an extra dive there instead.

One of the things that makes the Galapagos so incredible and full of life is that the archipelago sits at the convergence of three major ocean currents. The warm Panama current comes down from the north; the cold Humboldt current comes up from the south, and nutrient-rich deep water wells up along the equator from the west.

As a result, the underwater environment is highly changeable. As we were diving, we would often feel rapid changes in temperature as the current shifted direction, getting several degrees warmer or cooler all of a sudden, and often distorting the vision as the different currents mixed. It's a phenomenon we know well from all our diving in California, but very regular and very pronounced throughout the Galapagos.

It's a little unnerving to hear the dive guide saying that he's never seen dive conditions like this at Darwin Island. Apparently Darwin is consistently quite warm and clear, with easily 100 feet of visibility all the time, and currents running consistently and predictably. Yes, it's the change of seasons here, with the hot, wet season giving way to drier weather. But apparently that usually doesn't impact the diving at Darwin.

So one is left with the question, is this just an anomaly, or does is foretell of real, long-term changes driven by global climate change? It's the same question all of us are going to be asking for some time. Does this year's dry winter in California represent a normal, expected drought cycle, or does it portend a shift of climate? The answers to those questions are really important and probably not knowable with certainty for some time.

In any case, it is a thrill and a privilege to get to see this place, even if it's not at its best. If you want predictable conditions and animal sightings, you go to the aquarium. When you venture out into the real ocean, you are at the mercy of nature and the whims of the animals. And that's what makes it worth coming out here.


the mom said...

sounds like an amazing trip! thanks for posting so soon...i was waiting to hear how it went. i would love to see some more pictures, let me know when they are somewhere viewable!

Chard said...

Will do. I have a few more posts that I have to upload. Then I can get on the picture thing.

But for some reason, my company expects me to spend time on work or something.... Go figure.