Currents Are King

The islands are teeming with life because of where they formed. They sit at the crossroads of several major ocean currents. The climate depends on these currents. The currents are affected by the winds that push them.

Let’s start with the Humboldt current. It sweeps north from Antarctica and carries cold, nutrient‑rich water.

The Humboldt is a deep‑water current. With powerful trade winds, it creates an upwelling.

At the surface, winds blow ocean water away. Then deep‑sea water rises up to replace it.

When ocean organisms die and decompose, they sink to the bottom as nutrients. Upwelling brings up these nutrients. They provide food for tiny living organisms.

Cromwell current

Peru Oceanic current

South Equatorial current

Humboldt current





Panama current

Cold water with more nutrients rises up to replace water that is pushed away.

Surface winds push water away from the land.



Strong winds and deep currents create upwelling. The ocean becomes plentiful with food.

When Currents Collide

From May through December, the Humboldt current collides with the warm‑water Panama current. This current flows south from Central America. When the currents meet, they create a cool mist. Clouds form, and the islands seem to disappear.

Meanwhile, the Cromwell current moves in from the west. It travels thousands of kilometers from Hawaii. This cold current also carries nutrients to feed the marine food chain.

cactus finch

mistand fog around Isabela Island

And here comes the South Equatorial current. It flows east to west. This is a warm‑water surface current in the Pacific.

Around December, the warm Panama current becomes forceful. It can bring high humidity and heavy tropical rains. These can usher in El Niño!

The waters and currents moving around Galápagos Islands support life.

Disruptive Force

The El Niño current only forms every few years. This current affects weather patterns. It can bring heavy rain and possible flooding. El Niño can last for months at a time.

El Niño can benefit the plant life on the islands by bringing rain. This leads to a population boom for animals that eat them.

During a harsh El Niño, the Humboldt current is cut off. Upwelling cannot happen. That means there isn’t enough food for sea animals. Many die.

The Galápagos is a place where nature fights to stay in balance. It was born of fire. It is fueled by wind and water. It is full of life.