Although few people live in the Western tropical Pacific Ocean region, the remote waters there affect billions of people by shaping climate and air chemistry worldwide. Next week, scientists will head to the region to better understand its influence on the atmosphere—including how that influence may change in coming decades if storms over the Pacific become more powerful with rising global temperatures.
Their effect on the surface of the ocean is negligible, producing a rise of just inches that is virtually imperceptible on a turbulent sea. But internal waves, which are hidden entirely within the ocean, can tower hundreds of feet, with profound effects on the Earth’s climate and on ocean ecosystems.
A cave discovered near the source of Indonesia's massive earthquake-spawned tsunami contains the footprints of past gigantic waves dating up to 7,500 years ago, a rare natural record that suggests the next disaster could be centuries away, or perhaps only decades. The findings provide the longest and most detailed timeline for tsunamis that have occurred off the far western tip of Sumatra island, where deadly 100-ft waves struck in 2004.
Using a new isotope technique and deep sea corals gathered near the Hawaiian Islands, a Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientist, in collaboration with Univ. of California Santa Cruz colleagues, has determined that a long-term shift in nitrogen content in the Pacific Ocean has occurred as a result of climate change. This shift is similar to major paleoceanographic transitions in the sedimentary record.
The U.S. Navy plans to increase sonar testing over the next five years, even as research it funded reveals worrying signs that the loud underwater noise could disturb whales and dolphins. Two recent studies off the Southern California coast found certain endangered whales stopped feeding and fled from recordings of sounds similar to military sonar. This was surprising because scientists thought they were immune to the high-pitched sounds.
Coral reefs, the most biodiverse ecosystems in the world’s oceans, provide safe harbor for fish and organisms of many sizes that make homes among the branches, nooks and crannies of the tree-like coral. But reefs are declining because of disease and bleaching, conditions exacerbated by rising ocean temperatures.
Jupiter’s moon Europa features an intricate network of cracks in its icy surface. This unusual pattern is particularly pronounced around the equator. Scientists performing modeling studies on the potential marine currents below this ice layer have discovered that, near Europa’s equator, warmer water rises from deep within the moon.
At high pressures and low temperatures, such as those in the deep oceans, carbon dioxide occurs as a liquid that is denser than seawater. Researchers in England have identified regions beneath the oceans where the igneous rocks of the upper ocean crust could safely store very large volumes of carbon dioxide.
Methane hydrates are a potential energy source, but they are also a potential source of global warming. A pair of cooperating microbes on the ocean floor "eats" this methane in a unique way, and a new study provides insights into their surprising nutritional requirements. Learning how these methane-munching organisms exist in extreme environments could provide clues about how the deep-sea environment might change in a warming world.
Researchers using transmission electron microscopy have examined the smallest building block of coral that can be identified: sphemlites. These studies have revealed three distinct regions whose formation could be directly correlated to the time of day. These findings could help scientists and environmentalists working to protect and conserve coral from the threats of acidification and rising water temperatures.
For more a decade scientists have investigated microbial life under the seafloor off the coast of Peru. Traces of past microbial life in sediments reveal how these ecosystems have responded to climate change over hundreds of thousands of years. Little is known about how the “deep biosphere” developed over millennia and how microbial life influences the cycling of carbon in the oceans.
In waters off Long Beach, Seal Beach and Huntington Beach—some of the region's most popular surfing strands and tourist attractions—oil companies have used fracking at least 203 times at six sites in the past two decades. This discovery made from drilling records and interviews shows that offshore fracking is more widespread and frequent that state officials believed.
A new study looking at the impacts of climate change on the world’s ocean systems concludes that by the year 2100, about 98% of the oceans will be affected by acidification, warming temperatures, low oxygen or lack of biological productivity. These biogeochemical changes triggered by greenhouse gas emissions will not only affect marine habitats and organisms, but will often co-occur in areas that are heavily used by humans.
Scientists still know relatively little about the world’s biggest corals, where they are and how long they have lived. Camera-equipped flying robots which have the ability to film these corals from the air promise new insights into climate change effects on important ecosystems.
Scientists have discovered huge ice channels beneath a floating ice shelf in Antarctica. At 250 m high, the channels are almost as tall as the Eiffel tower and stretch hundreds of kilometers along the ice shelf. The channels are likely to influence the stability of the ice shelf and their discovery will help researchers understand how the ice will respond to changing environmental conditions.
Do the smallest plankton organisms determine the future of the ocean? A five-week long field experiment shows that pico- and nanophytoplankton benefit from higher carbon dioxide concentrations in the water, causing an imbalance in the food web. In addition, the carbon export to the deep ocean and the production of the climate-cooling gas dimethyl sulfide are diminished—two important functions for the global climate.
Secretion of polysaccharides from the micro community living within the sea ice stick organism together and forms greater particles introducing a rapid transport of carbon to the seafloor. New research now makes it possible to forecast the importance for the global carbon budget of this transport.
The world's largest solar-powered boat has docked on the banks of the Seine River, its final port of call after a three-month voyage across the Atlantic Ocean to study how the Gulf Stream and climate change could influence each other. Starting from Miami, Univ. of Geneva scientists sailed across the Atlantic, taking water and air measurements that should allow them to better understand the interaction between the ocean and the atmosphere.
A Univ. of Houston professor led a team of scientists to uncover the largest single volcano yet documented on Earth. Covering an area roughly equivalent to the British Isles or the state of New Mexico, this volcano, dubbed the Tamu Massif, is nearly as big as the giant volcanoes of Mars, placing it among the largest in the Solar System.
The melting of sea ice in the Arctic is well on its way toward its annual "minimum," that time when the floating ice cap covers less of the Arctic Ocean than at any other period during the year. While the ice will continue to shrink until around mid-September, it is unlikely that this year’s summer low will break a new record. Still, this year’s melt rates are in line with the sustained decline of the Arctic ice cover.
In a new study, biologists have compiled and analyzed all available data on the reaction of marine animals to ocean acidification. From this collection of 167 studies with data from more than 150 different species, they found that while the majority of animal species investigated are affected by ocean acidification, the respective impacts are specific and can vary widely from species to species.
This summer's "dead zone" at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, where there's so little oxygen that starfish suffocate, is bigger than average but doesn't approach record size as scientists had predicted, according to findings released this week. The area of low oxygen covers 5,840 square miles of the Gulf floor—roughly the size of Connecticut.
First reported to the U.S. Coast Guard by multinational oil and gas company BP in September 2012, newly found oil sheens raised public concern that the Macondo well, which was capped in July 2010, might be leaking. A chemical analysis now shows the source of oil sheens floating at the ocean's surface near the site of the Gulf of Mexico Deepwater Horizon oil spill is pockets of oil trapped within the wreckage of the sunken rig.
The length of the satellite record for the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets is currently too short to tell if the recently reported speed-up of ice loss will be sustained in the future or if it results from natural processes, according to a new study. Sheets are losing are about 300 billion tons of ice each year, but no consensus has emerged about the cause of this recent increase in mass loss.
At the end of the last Ice Age, as the world began to warm, a brief pulse of biological productivity in the Pacific Ocean gave rise to large numbers of phytoplankton, foraminifera and other creatures. Researchers have hypothesized that iron sparked this surge of ocean life, but a new study determines instead that “perfect storm” of nutrients and light spurred the bloom.