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Question Set: Effects of Surface Currents
NGSS Science and Engineering Practices
NGSS Crosscutting Concepts
NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas
  1. As a gyre forms, water piles up in the center. Explain how higher water levels at the center of a gyre act in the opposite direction of Ekman transport.
  2. What causes coastal upwelling?
  3. How does coastal upwelling affect ecosystems? How does coastal upwelling affect humans? Provide examples in your answer.
  4. Why do you think the low-pressure center of a hurricane produces a downwelling?
  5. How are Langmuir currents formed? How might these currents influence organisms living near the ocean surface?
  6. What is meant by the term “basin-wide tilt”? Use your own words to explain this phenomenon.
  7. Fill out the following table comparing El Niño and La Niña.
Hypothesized effect El Niño La Niña
Weather and climate    
Food chain    
Marine mammal populations    
  1. Why do you think El Niño is more studied and better known than La Niña?
  2. Would you expect to pay more for a pound of fresh fish during an El Niño or a La Niña year? Why?
  3. Do you think El Niño and La Niña effects are limited to oceanic and coastal environments? Why or why not? How do you think these phenomena influence environments farther inland?
Exploring Our Fluid Earth, a product of the Curriculum Research & Development Group (CRDG), College of Education. University of Hawaii, 2011. This document may be freely reproduced and distributed for non-profit educational purposes.