Science Concepts—Upwelling

Summary: From the NANOOS Well, Well, Well lesson: “In this activity, students investigate the relationship between winds, surface currents, sea surface temperature and upwelling and downwelling off the coast of Oregon and Washington. Students analyze data to make predictions on today’s upwelling or downwelling conditions.”

Concepts to teach:


  1. North winds cause surface coastal waters in Oregon to move offshore and be replaced by cold, salty, nutrient-rich deep waters that flow to the surface.
  2. Wind strength, duration and direction can affect the degree of upwelling that occurs.
  3. Upwelling events can be predicted and identified by analyzing wind, current and temperature conditions.

Standards: NGSS Performance Expectations

  • MS-ESS2-4. Develop a model to describe the cycling of water through Earth’s systems driven by energy from the sun and the force of gravity.

Specific Objectives:
Students will be able to:

  1. Explain the process of upwelling
  2. Use a model to demonstrate processes that affect upwelling
  3. Analyze the relationship between wind, surface currents and sea surface temperature to make predictions on water conditions.

Activity Links and Resources:


  • Is upwelling occurring today? What evidence supports your conclusion?
  • In what season does upwelling typically occur?
  • Draw a picture that shows how winds affect upwelling.
  • How does upwelling affect primary productivity in coastal waters?