Monday, 12 May 2008

Stressed Seaweed











It is a hot summer’s day; there’s not a cloud in the sky. You, and your friends or family, make the decision to go to the beach.

As you run through the house, gathering flip-flops and towels and swimsuits, you imagine warm sand, blue-green water, a slight breeze.

You put on your sunglasses, get into a boiling hot car, and roll down the windows. Then you drive through sunny countryside, the wind in your hair. When you near the coast and smell the scent of the sea, your heart jumps with excitement.

Now the air is cooler, the sky less bright. But those clouds will quickly blow over! You roll up the windows. The weather is dull, but perhaps … the sunny spot is a mile along the coast.

The clouds are darker. You put on a jacket before stepping out of the car. Thank goodness you had the foresight to bring one! You walk along a path through the sand dunes, and look at the sea. “I’m freezing,” says one of your friends.

“Me, too,” says another. “I saw a café, two or three miles back. It looked like it might have views of the harbour.”

You’re a hundred yards from the car when a hailstorm starts. Your hair is wet and your legs are covered in goose bumps.

The café that might have views of the harbour looks empty and sad. You keep driving.

Ten miles from home you take off your jacket, then roll down the windows. The warm wind dries your hair. You, and your friends or family, spend the late afternoon sunbathing in your garden.

Why does this happen?

It is the fault of brown seaweed, otherwise known as kelp. Scientists believe stress among the plants can alter weather patterns.

On an overcast day kelp are comfortable when the tide goes out, as they stay damp until it comes in again. But on a bright day they dry, releasing iodide. The iodide rises, causing clouds to form overhead, sheltering the kelp from the unwelcome sunshine.

Amazing!

Never, ever, expect a sunny day at a beach where kelp is found in quantity.

8 comments:

Catherine J Gardner said...

Do you get the thunderstorm on Sunday afternoon? It was hideous here...

Why is it always nice of a weekday (when you're in work) and raining on a Saturday? LOL!

Mary said...

Good question, Cate!

Now we have an answer to why it's always cloudy at the beach, I might start researching the problem of wet Saturdays. :)

No thunderstorms here on Sunday, just horrid hailstones at the coast.

Beth said...

I had to laugh at your story...I mean I feel bad and everything, but you wrote about it fabulously well and it made me feel like I was right there with you as that kind of stuff always happens to me !!

Mary said...

Isn’t it typical, Beth? And do most people honestly have perfect days out? Perhaps they do -- and we’re just unlucky! :)

John said...

Nice story!
I now have a good excuse for avoiding the beach.

Mary said...

Thanks, John. But I bet if you do use this excuse, there will not be cloud in the sky! ;)

Katie Alender said...

You make a backyard sound like a beachy place to be!

I like cold days at the beach... but not if I'm expecting sun.

Mary said...

Cold days at the beach can be lovely, Katie; and especially in the company of a dog or a horse. :)