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Arctic sea ice: Unlikely to break records, but downward trend continues

August 27, 2013 3:14 pm | by Maria-José Viñas, NASA's Earth Science News Team | News | Comments

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.

Scientists analyze the extent of ocean acidification

August 26, 2013 8:11 am | News | Comments

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.

Gulf “dead zone” above average but not near record

July 31, 2013 8:02 am | by Janet McConnaughey, Associated Press | News | Comments

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.

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Study finds source of oil sheens near Deepwater Horizon site

July 17, 2013 11:03 am | News | Comments

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.

Study: Continuous satellite ice sheet monitoring to better predict sea-level rise

July 15, 2013 9:45 am | News | Comments

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.

Scientists solve a 14,000-year-old ocean mystery

July 15, 2013 9:32 am | News | Comments

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.

Study: Continuous satellite ice sheet monitoring to better predict sea-level rise

July 15, 2013 7:27 am | News | Comments

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.

Scientists discover thriving colonies of microbes in ocean “plastisphere”

June 27, 2013 2:50 pm | News | Comments

In a recently published study, scientists say they have found a diverse multitude of microbes colonizing and thriving on flecks of plastic that have polluted the oceans—a vast new human-made flotilla of microbial communities that they have dubbed the “plastisphere.” Using scanning electron microscopy and gene sequencing techniques, they found at least 1,000 different types of bacterial cells, some of them new species yet to be identified.

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Underwater springs show how coral reefs respond to ocean acidification

June 17, 2013 7:06 pm | News | Comments

A recent study is the first to show that corals are not able to fully acclimate to low pH conditions in nature. The results are from a study of corals growing where underwater springs naturally lower the pH of seawater. The coral doesn’t die, but the acidity reduces the density of coral skeletons, making coral reefs more vulnerable to disruption and erosion.

Questions rise about seeding for ocean carbon dioxide sequestration

June 12, 2013 6:27 pm | by Tona Kunz, Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

A new study on the feeding habits of ocean microbes calls into question the potential use of algal blooms to trap carbon dioxide and offset rising global levels. These blooms contain iron-eating microscopic phytoplankton that absorb C02 from the air. But one type of phytoplankton, a diatom, is using more iron that it needs, which is reducing the amount of iron left over to support the carbon-eating plankton.

Research shows where trash accumulates in the deep sea

June 5, 2013 5:56 pm | News | Comments

Surprisingly large amounts of discarded trash end up in the ocean. A recent paper by researchers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) shows how trash is accumulating in the deep sea, particularly in Monterey Canyon. Inspired during a fisheries study, the researchers counted over 1,500 observations of deep-sea debris, the frequency of which surprised them.

Researchers document acceleration of ocean denitrification during deglaciation

June 3, 2013 9:35 am | News | Comments

As ice sheets melted during the deglaciation of the last ice age and global oceans warmed, oceanic oxygen levels decreased and "denitrification" accelerated by 30 to 120%, a new international study shows, creating oxygen-poor marine regions and throwing the oceanic nitrogen cycle off balance. By the end of the deglaciation, however, the oceans had adjusted to their new warmer state and the nitrogen cycle had stabilized.

Scientists find possible solution to ancient enigma

May 29, 2013 1:09 pm | News | Comments

Stromatolites (“layered rocks”) are structures made of calcium carbonate and shaped by the actions of photosynthetic cyanobacteria and other microbes that trapped and bound grains of coastal sediment into fine layers. According to recent research, the widespread and mysterious disappearance of stromatolites may have been driven by single-celled organisms called foraminifera.

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Earth’s mantle may affect long-term sea-level rise estimates

May 24, 2013 11:27 am | by Rob Enslin, Syracuse University | News | Comments

From Virginia to Florida, there is a prehistoric shoreline that, in some parts, rests more than 280 feet above modern sea level. The shoreline was carved by waves more than 3 million years ago—possible evidence of a once higher sea level, triggered by ice-sheet melting. But new findings by a team of researchers reveal that the shoreline has been uplifted by more than 210 feet, meaning less ice melted than expected.

Topography of Eastern Seaboard muddles ancient sea level changes

May 17, 2013 12:31 pm | by Ann Stark, LLNL | News | Comments

According to research taking place at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the distortion of the ancient shoreline and flooding surface of the U.S. Atlantic Coastal Plain are the direct result of fluctuations in topography in the region and could have implications on understanding long-term climate change, according to a new study.

Robotic instruments provide real-time data on Maine red tide

May 8, 2013 12:36 pm | News | Comments

A robotic sensor that won an R&D 100 Award in 2009 has been put to use by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in Gulf of Maine coastal waters to monitor the way red tides behave. These harmful algal blooms, which generate a potentially fatal toxin, can be a challenge to track or predict. The Environmental Sample Processors have been remotely deployed and should simplify and enhance this effort.

Study finds “dark oxidants” form away from sunlight, in oceans and underground

May 6, 2013 9:26 am | News | Comments

All forms of life that breathe oxygen—even ones that can't be seen with the naked eye, such as bacteria—must fight oxidants to live. These same oxidants also exist in the environment. But neutralizing environmental oxidants such as superoxide was a worry only for organisms that dwell in sunlight—in habitats that cover a mere 5% of the planet. Now researchers have discovered the first light-independent source of superoxide.

Scientists reveal relationship between sea floor lava and deep-carbon cycle

May 3, 2013 12:16 pm | News | Comments

A team from the Smithsonian and the University of Rhode Island has found unsuspected linkages between the oxidation state of iron in volcanic rocks and variations in the chemistry of the deep Earth. Their detailed spectroscopic work has uncovered chemical trends that not only run counter to predictions from recent decades of study, they belie a role for carbon circulating in the deep Earth.

Where does charcoal, or black carbon, in soils go?

April 22, 2013 7:43 am | News | Comments

The ability to determine the fate of charcoal is critical to knowledge of the global carbon budget, which in turn can help understand and mitigate climate change. However, until now, researchers only had scientific guesses about what happens to charcoal once it's incorporated into soil. They believed it stayed there. Surprisingly, the findings of a new study shows that most of these researchers were wrong.

Preparing to install the world’s largest underwater observatory

April 16, 2013 9:20 pm | by Hannah Hickey, University of Washington | News | Comments

The basement laboratory near the University of Washington campus is, literally, buzzing. High-voltage machines produce energy that will soon run through cables snaking along the seafloor. The electronics are being prepared for the world’s largest underwater observatory. Called the Regional Scale Nodes project, the cabled facility will help researchers integrate U.S. measurements of the ocean and seafloor.

Researchers call for marine observation network

April 11, 2013 3:31 am | News | Comments

A comprehensive marine biodiversity observation network could be established with modest funding within five years, according to a recently published assessment from a team led by J. Emmett Duffy of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. Such a network, they say, would fill major gaps in scientists' understanding of the global distribution of marine organisms.

Ocean nutrients a key component of future change. say scientists

April 11, 2013 2:18 am | News | Comments

Variations in nutrient availability in the world's oceans could be a vital component of future environmental change, according a research team. Their research reviews what we know about ocean nutrient patterns and interactions, and how they might be influenced by future climate change and other man-made factors. The authors also highlight how nutrient cycles influence climate by fuelling biological production.

Research shows Gulf of Mexico resilient after spill

April 8, 2013 5:54 pm | News | Comments

The Gulf of Mexico may have a much greater natural ability to self-clean oil spills than previously believed, according to Terry Hazen, University of Tennessee-Oak Ridge National Laboratory Governor's Chair for Environmental Biotechnology. Hazen’s research team used a powerful new approach for identifying microbes in the environment to discover previously unknown and naturally occurring bacteria that consume and break down crude oil.

Extreme algae blooms the new normal?

April 4, 2013 7:36 am | News | Comments

In 2011, Lake Erie experienced a record-breaking algae bloom that began in the lake's Western region in mid-July and eventually covered an area of 230 square miles. At its peak in October, the bloom had expanded to more than 1,930 square miles, three times greater than any other bloom on record. According to recent research, the bloom was triggered by long-term agricultural practices coupled with extreme precipitation, followed by weak lake circulation and warm temperatures.

Amazon CEO recovers Apollo engines from Atlantic

March 21, 2013 8:54 am | by Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Rusted pieces of two Apollo-era rocket engines that helped boost astronauts to the moon have been fished out of the murky depths of the Atlantic by Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos. A privately funded expedition led by Bezos raised the main engine parts during three weeks at sea, about 360 miles from Cape Canaveral. The engine parts were resting nearly 3 miles deep in the Atlantic

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