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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.