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Scientists discover layer of liquified molten rock in Earth’s mantle

March 20, 2013 2:30 pm | News | Comments

Using advanced seafloor electromagnetic imaging technology, scientists with Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution imaged a 25-km-thick layer of partially melted mantle rock below the edge of the Cocos plate where it moves beneath Central America. The finding of this layer, which may be responsible for the sliding motions of the planet’s massive tectonic plates, could have far-reaching implications to our understanding of geologic processes.

Under California: An ancient tectonic plate

March 18, 2013 4:39 pm | News | Comments

Large chunks of an ancient tectonic plate that slid under North America millions of years ago are still present under parts of central California and Mexico, according to new research led by Brown University geophysicists. Called the Isabella anomaly—a large mass of cool, dehydrated material about 100 km beneath central California—is in fact a surviving slab of the ancient Farallon oceanic plate driven deep into the Earth’s mantle about 100 million years ago.

Ocean plankton sponge up nearly twice the carbon currently assumed

March 18, 2013 10:38 am | News | Comments

According to new research, models of carbon dioxide in the world’s oceans need to be revised.  Trillions of plankton near the surface of warm waters are far more carbon-rich than has long been thought global marine temperature fluctuations could mean that tiny microbes digest double the carbon previously calculated. 

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Mysterious bacterium found in Antarctic lake

March 13, 2013 9:57 am | by Vladimir Isachenkov, Associated Press | News | Comments

A new form of microbial life has been found in water samples taken from a giant freshwater lake hidden under kilometers of Antarctic ice, Russian scientists said Monday. In a prepared statement, the researchers said that the "unidentified and unclassified" bacterium has no relation to any of the existing bacterial types. They touched the lake water Sunday at a depth of 12,366 feet (3,769 m), about 800 miles (1,300 km) east of the South Pole in the central part of the continent.

Study: Glaciers contribute significant iron in Atlantic Ocean

March 11, 2013 4:24 pm | News | Comments

All living organisms rely on iron as an essential nutrient. In the ocean, iron’s abundance or scarcity means all the difference as it fuels the growth of plankton. A new study from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution identifies an unexpectedly large source of iron to the North Atlantic—meltwater from glaciers and ice sheets, which may stimulate plankton growth. This source is likely to increase as melting of the Greenland ice sheet escalates under a warming climate.

Earth warmer today than during most of past 11,300 years

March 8, 2013 9:55 am | News | Comments

With data from 73 ice and sediment core monitoring sites around the world, scientists have recently reconstructed Earth's temperature history back to the end of the last Ice Age. The analysis reveals that the planet today is warmer than it's been during 70 to 80% of the last 11,300 years.

How to thrive in battery acid and among toxic metals

March 8, 2013 9:50 am | News | Comments

Like the extraterrestrial creature in the movie Alien, the "extremophile" red alga Galdieria sulphuraria can survive brutal heat and resist the effects of toxins. Scientists were previously unsure of how a one-celled alga acquired such flexibility and resilience. But recently they made an unexpected discovery: Galdieria's genome shows clear signs of borrowing genes from its neighbors.

Study reveals coastal regions’ sensitivity to ocean acidification

March 1, 2013 2:18 pm | News | Comments

A continental-scale chemical survey in the waters of the eastern U.S. and Gulf of Mexico is helping researchers determine how distinct bodies of water will resist changes in acidity. The study, which measures varying levels of carbon dioxide and other forms of carbon in the ocean. According to the survey, different regions of coastal ocean will respond to an influx of carbon dioxide in different ways.

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Researchers marvel at world's deepest sea vents

February 27, 2013 10:03 pm | by David McFadden, Associated Press | News | Comments

Researchers steering a remote-controlled submarine around the world's deepest known hydrothermal vents have collected numerous samples from depths reaching more than 3 miles below the sea's surface between the Cayman Islands and Jamaica. They believe that laboratory analysis in the coming months will reveal some new life forms that have evolved in the pitch-black vent areas of the Cayman Trough, where mineral-rich fluid gushes from volcanic chimneys.

Study: First evidence that magnetism helps salmon find home

February 11, 2013 9:24 am | News | Comments

When migrating, sockeye salmon typically swim up to 4,000 miles into the ocean and then, years later, navigate back to the upstream reaches of the rivers in which they were born to spawn their young. Scientists have long wondered how salmon find their way to their home rivers over such epic distances. A new study suggests that salmon find their home rivers by sensing the rivers' unique magnetic signature.

Nitrogen from pollution, natural sources causes growth of toxic algae

February 8, 2013 7:56 am | News | Comments

Researchers recently found that nitrogen entering the ocean—whether through natural processes or pollution—boosts the growth and toxicity of a group of phytoplankton that can cause the human illness “amnesic shellfish poisoning”. Commonly found in marine waters off the North American West Coast, these diatoms produce a potent toxin called domoic acid. When these phytoplankton grow rapidly into massive blooms, high concentrations of domoic acid put human health at risk if it accumulates in shellfish.

U.K.'s space age Antarctic base can slide across ice

February 6, 2013 12:29 pm | by Rapahel Satter, Associated Press | News | Comments

British researchers have unveiled a futuristic Antarctic research base that can move, sliding across the frozen surface to beat the shifting ice and pounding snow that doomed its predecessors. Its builders hope that the Halley VI Research Station, the sixth facility to occupy the site on the Brunt Ice Shelf, can adapt to the unpredictable ice conditions.

Scientists find “bipolar” marine bacteria, refuting biological theory

January 15, 2013 9:46 am | News | Comments

In another blow to the "Everything is Everywhere" tenet of bacterial distribution in the ocean, scientists at the Marine Biological Laboratory have found "bipolar" species of bacteria that occur in the Arctic and Antarctic, but nowhere else. And, surprisingly, they found even fewer bipolar species than would turn up by chance if marine bacteria were randomly distributed everywhere.

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Giant squid captured on video in ocean depths

January 9, 2013 6:24 pm | by Malcolm Foster, Associated Press | News | Comments

After years of searching, scientists and broadcasters say they have captured video images of a giant squid in its natural habitat deep in the ocean for the first time. Japanese public broadcaster NHK released photographs of the giant squid this week ahead of Sunday's show about the encounter. The Discovery Channel will air its program on Jan. 27.

On the ice: Trio of complex Antarctic science efforts reach milestones

December 21, 2012 1:06 pm | News | Comments

In the past week, researchers with the West Antarctic Ice Sheet Divide (WAIS) project, the Whillans Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research Drilling (WISSARD) project and the Pine Island Glacier (PIG) project each announced they had achieved these various milestones. In each case, the successes were based on innovative drilling technologies and promise to open new scientific vistas for Antarctic research.

Scientists track ocean currents using uranium-236

December 17, 2012 12:35 pm | News | Comments

Atmospheric nuclear testing in the 1950s and 1960s produced significant amounts of uranium-236. This isotope readily dissolves in seawater, giving researchers today the opportunity to investigate ocean currents by monitoring its concentration. Until recent advances in heavy ion mass spectrometry, however, this type of detection was considered impossible.

Top officials meet at ONR in response to Arctic changes

December 14, 2012 10:28 am | by David Smalley, Office of Naval Research | News | Comments

The rapid retreat of sea ice in the Arctic has attracted the attention of top naval officials who have recently held an Arctic Summit at the Office of Naval Research to discuss their reponse to what will likely be a increased volume of human activity in the region. Although the meeting did not discuss policy, it did highlight the many potential areas of impact, from oil drilling to tourism.

Crevasses, bendable ice affect stability of Antartica ice shelf

December 10, 2012 8:09 am | News | Comments

Gaping crevasses that penetrate upward from the bottom of the largest remaining ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula make it more susceptible to collapse, according to researchers who spent the last four Southern Hemisphere summers studying the massive Larsen C Ice Shelf. But the team, which used radar technology to study the composition of the ice shelf, also identified structures that contributed to the shelf’s resilience.

Scientists unravel the mystery of marine methane oxidation

November 13, 2012 10:39 am | News | Comments

Vast amounts of methane are stored under the ocean floor, and anaerobic oxidation of methane coupled to sulfate respiration prevents the release of this gas. Though discovered decades ago, the mechanism for how microorganisms performed this reaction has remained a mystery. According to recent findings, a single microorganism can do this on its own, and does not need to be carried out in collaboration with a bacterium as previously thought.

A strange diet for methane-consuming microorganisms

November 6, 2012 12:36 pm | News | Comments

To keep cellular systems running all cells need fuel. For certain ocean-dwelling microorganisms, methane can be such a fuel. But researchers studying these creatures had previously assumed that the methane they consumed was used as a carbon source. However, recent studies have surprisingly shown that is not the case and will force scientists to reevaluate the microorganisms’ role in inactivating environmental methane.

Small marine organisms' big changes could affect world climate

October 30, 2012 1:08 pm | News | Comments

In the future, warmer waters could significantly change ocean distribution of populations of phytoplankton, tiny organisms that could have a major effect on climate change. Researchers have recently shown that by the end of the 21st century, warmer oceans will cause populations of these marine microorganisms to thrive near the poles and shrink in equatorial waters.

Opposite behaviors? Arctic sea ice shrinks while Antarctic ice grows

October 24, 2012 8:15 am | by Maria-José Viñas, NASA | News | Comments

A new NASA study shows that from 1978 to 2010 the total extent of sea ice surrounding Antarctica in the Southern Ocean grew by roughly 6,600 square miles every year, an area larger than the state of Connecticut. However, this growth rate is not nearly as large as the decrease in the Arctic, which has scientists questioning the reasons for the growth. Atmospheric circulation may be one cause.

Acidification recorder recovered from icy Antarctic waters

October 19, 2012 10:23 am | News | Comments

A research team from the University of California, Santa Barbara and Portland State University has retrieved a sensor containing previously unavailable data about changes in chemistry or acidification in the remote waters of McMurdo Sound in Antarctica. The device collected data through June, when the battery expired in the harsh polar sea.

Ice sheet retreat controlled by the landscape

October 17, 2012 12:56 pm | News | Comments

A U.K. research team has recently determined that the geometry of channels beneath the ice can be a strong control on ice behaviour, temporarily hiding the signals of retreat. The findings, which provide the first simulation of past ice-sheet retreat and collapse over a ten thousand year period in Antarctica, shed new light on what makes ice stable or unstable and will help refine predictions of future ice extent and global sea-level rise, the researchers say.

Experts: Global warming means more Antarctic ice

October 10, 2012 5:59 pm | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

While the North Pole has been losing sea ice over the years, the water nearest the South Pole has been gaining it. Antarctic sea ice hit a record 7.51 million square miles in September, just days after reports of the biggest loss of Arctic sea ice on record. Climate change skeptics have seized on this example, but scientists say the skeptics are misinterpreting what's happening and why.

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