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From the south blows an ill wind

On my way around Sinclair Inlet this morning I was reminded that even though the daytime minus tides are over, the approaching full moon continues to provide us with ample beach to explore. I also watched as a big Navy ship was pulling out for Rich Passage, the Sound and presumably the oceans beyond. (Eyes back to the road please.)

Twenty minutes later, I was watching the huge ship from the five floors of glass staircase up to my office, but something else caught my attention. Waves. There were some pretty healthy waves in Sinclair Inlet. That means a lot of surface water was on the move. A couple other things came to mind… I had commented to someone earlier in the morning that it would be good kite weather. I had also noted flags firmly held toward the north by the southerly wind. … But when I saw the waves, I started to think of Hood Canal.

The short of it is that winds from the south (southerly) actually push the surface water in Hood Canal to the north. Deeper water with lower oxygen has to rise to take its place. Unfortunately, this year the deeper water in Hood Canal is particularly low in oxygen.

I walked into my office ready to write this blog and refer any readers to a recent note from the UW’s Hood Canal Dissolved Oxygen Program that noted oxygen values “among the lowest observed, based on the data sets available.” You can find the document by visiting the Hood Canal Dissolved Oxygen Program website and clicking on the Summer 2010 Hypoxia water drop on the right. Christopher Dunagan has been reporting on the threat in recent weeks.

Windblown flags and choppy waters in front of the Bremerton marina.

I also checked email, only to find that a fish kill report had already been announced. The following was passed along by researcher Jan Newton of the UW Applied Physics Laboratory…

“The midnight buoy profile at Hoodsport, Hood Canal, shows that the very low oxygen concentrations we’ve been following became shallower (within less than 10 m of surface) and that surface concentrations were very low (3.1 mg/L). This is consistent with what we predicted may occur with S winds. Conditions relaxed a bit this morning, surface oxygen currently 4.7 mg/L. If winds persist, it may get worse; if they relax, it may improve.”

She continued “A WDFW crew led by Wayne Palsson reports dead fish at Potlatch: sanddabs, greenlings, and blackbelly eelpouts [Lycodopsis pacifica].  They will be diving today, recording fish observations and oxygen concentrations at the Sund Rock area.”

You can look at plots of dissolved oxygen and other data from ORCA (Ocean Remote Chemical Analyzer) buoys near Hoodsport and Twanoh at the NANOOS NVS and HCDOP websites. Look for additional information at the Kitsap Sun (it’s already up) or in Christopher Dunagan’s Watching Our Water Ways blog. We’ll see what the next days/weeks hold for the south end of Hood Canal.

In the meantime… It really is a good time to pull out the kite. JEff

Jeff Adams is a Washington Sea Grant Marine Water Quality Specialist, affiliated with the University of Washington’s College of the Ocean and Fishery Sciences, and based in Bremerton. You can follow his Sea-life blog, email to or call at 360-337-4619.