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Deep water search for jet could turn on robot subs

April 2, 2014 6:16 am | by Adam Geller, AP National Writer | News | Comments

If the wreckage of a missing Malaysian airliner rests somewhere in the Indian Ocean's depths, then investigators will likely need to entrust the hunt at least partly to robot submarines and the scientists who deploy them to scan remote swaths of the seafloor. Such unmanned subs played a critical role in locating the carcass of a lost Air France jet in 2011, two years after it crashed in the middle of the south Atlantic.

Study: Deep ocean current may slow due to climate change

March 21, 2014 2:12 pm | News | Comments

Far beneath the surface of the ocean, deep currents act as conveyer belts, channeling heat, carbon, oxygen and nutrients around the globe. A new study by the Univ. of Pennsylvania’s Irina Marinov and Raffaele Bernardello and colleagues from McGill Univ. has found that recent climate change may be acting to slow down one of these conveyer belts, with potentially serious consequences for the future of the planet’s climate.

New data confirms: Sea ice being lost at a rate of five days per decade

March 5, 2014 9:55 am | News | Comments

According to new research, the ice-free season across the Arctic is getting longer by five days per decade. New analysis of satellite data shows the Arctic Ocean absorbing ever more of the sun’s energy in summer, leading to an ever later appearance of sea ice in the autumn. In some regions, autumn freeze-up is occurring up to 11 days per decade later than it used to.

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Still-fresh remnants of Exxon Valdez oil protected by boulders

February 27, 2014 11:21 am | News | Comments

Twenty-five years after the infamous Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound, beaches on the Alaska Peninsula hundreds of kilometers from the incident still harbor small hidden pockets of surprisingly unchanged oil, according to new research being presented at the American Geophysical Union meeting in Hawaii this week.

Silver gone astray

February 25, 2014 5:04 pm | News | Comments

It has long been known that free, ionic silver particles can be highly toxic to aquatic organisms. Yet we a lack of detailed knowledge about the doses required to trigger a response and how the organisms deal with the stress. To learn more about the cellular processes, scientists in Switzerland subjected algae to a range of silver concentrations. The results are reassuring, but the presence of other stressors could compound the problem.

Study: Arctic getting darker, making Earth warmer

February 18, 2014 8:39 am | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

The Arctic isn't nearly as bright and white as it used to be because of more ice melting in the ocean, and that's turning out to be a global problem, a new study says. With more dark, open water in the summer, less of the sun's heat is reflected back into space. So the entire Earth is absorbing much more heat than expected.

Solving an evolutionary puzzle

February 12, 2014 4:58 pm | News | Comments

For four decades, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and heavy metals from nearby manufacturing plants flowed into New Bedford Harbor, creating one of the EPA’s largest Superfund cleanup sites. It’s also the site of an evolutionary puzzle: small Atlantic killifish are not only tolerating the toxic conditions in the harbor, they seem to be thriving there. In a new paper, researchers may have an explanation for their genetic resistance to PCBs.

Key photosynthetic substance present on Earth before atmospheric oxygen

February 7, 2014 11:19 am | News | Comments

A team of researchers led by Virginia Tech and Univ. of California, Berkeley, scientists has discovered that a regulatory process that turns on photosynthesis in plants at daybreak likely developed on Earth in ancient, methane-producing microbes 2.5 billion years ago, long before oxygen became available. The research opens new scientific areas in the fields of evolutionary biology and microbiology.

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Deep-diving sub Alvin cleared to return to service

January 28, 2014 11:44 am | News | Comments

After a three-year overhaul and major upgrade, the United States' deepest-diving research submersible, Alvin, has been cleared to return to work exploring the ocean's depths. The sub has been out of service since December 2010, undergoing a major upgrade, including the replacement of its personnel sphere with a newly fabricated, larger, more capable hull.

Is there an ocean beneath our feet?

January 27, 2014 9:42 am | News | Comments

Scientists at the Univ. of Liverpool have shown that deep sea fault zones could transport much larger amounts of water from the Earth’s oceans to the upper mantle than previously thought. They have estimated that over the age of the Earth, the Japan subduction zone alone could transport the equivalent of up to three and a half times the water of all the Earth’s oceans to its mantle.

Scientists to study Pacific Ocean’s “global chimney”

January 8, 2014 11:42 am | News | Comments

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.

The ocean’s hidden waves show their power

January 8, 2014 7:52 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

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.

Indonesia cave reveals history of ancient tsunamis

December 27, 2013 10:19 am | by Margie Mason, Associated Press | News | Comments

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.

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Change in Pacific nitrogen content tied to climate change

December 17, 2013 2:40 pm | by Anne M. Stark, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory | News | Comments

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.

Navy expands sonar testing despite troubling signs

December 16, 2013 9:28 am | by Alicia Chang and Julie Watson, Associated Press Writers | News | Comments

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.

Homing in on stressed coral

December 13, 2013 2:14 pm | by Denise Brehm, Civil and Environmental Engineering MIT | News | Comments

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.

The heat pump in Europa's ocean

December 11, 2013 2:00 pm | News | Comments

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.

Study: Ocean crust lavas could store many centuries of industrial carbon dioxide

December 4, 2013 10:54 am | News | Comments

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-munching microorganisms meddle with metal

November 11, 2013 2:46 pm | News | Comments

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.

Physicists provide new insights into coral skeleton formation

October 30, 2013 8:31 am | News | Comments

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.

How climate change affects microbial life below the seafloor

October 22, 2013 4:21 pm | News | Comments

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.

Calif. finds more instances of offshore fracking

October 21, 2013 7:56 am | by Alicia Chang and Jason Dearen, Associated Press | News | Comments

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.

Study: Climate change will wreak havoc on oceans by 2100

October 17, 2013 8:14 am | News | Comments

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.

Stanford drones open way to new world of coral research

October 16, 2013 2:43 pm | by Rob Jordan, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

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.

Giant channels discovered beneath Antarctic ice shelf

October 7, 2013 2:38 am | News | Comments

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.

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