Jon White – From the President’s Office: 7-17-2017

2017-07-17T17:03:01+00:00 July 17, 2017|

Congress came back from recess ready to work, with House appropriators moving several spending bills out of committee last week, including the Commerce, Justice Science (CJS) bill that funds NSF, NOAA, and NASA. For months, we have been working hard to help remind congressional leaders of the importance of ocean science and to ensure it [...]

Member Highlight: FAU Harbor Branch Leads Exploration Of Cuba’s Deep Coral Reefs

2018-01-02T13:55:03+00:00 July 17, 2017|

The Cooperative Institute for Ocean Exploration, Research, and Technology (CIOERT), based at FAU Harbor Branch, recently led a collaborative scientific expedition to Cuba, exploring never-before-studied mesophotic coral reefs from 30 m to 150 m. After nearly a year and half of planning, the research cruise, "Cuba's Twilight Zone Reefs and Their Regional Connectivity," circumnavigated Cuba in just one month.

Mississippi Mud May Hold Hope For Louisiana Coast

2017-07-17T09:01:09+00:00 July 17, 2017|

Many studies say capturing Mississippi River sand through diversions is key to rebuilding Louisiana's vanishing coast. But a new study in the open-access journal Earth Surface Dynamics of an old levee breach, or crevasse, along Bayou Lafourche indicates that mud, the most plentiful sediment type carried by the river, may be the most powerful tool in building land.

Scientists Harness Wind To Study Greenland Ice Sheet

2017-07-14T09:36:14+00:00 July 14, 2017|

Ross Edwards wasn’t sure what he’d gotten himself into when he arrived in Kangerlussuaq this past May to begin a month-long traverse of the Greenland ice sheet. His four teammates were busy assembling the strange vehicle they would use to cross the barren ice – a train of wooden sleds pulled by a giant kite. But Edwards, an earth scientist at Curtin University in Perth, Australia, worried that it wasn’t up to the task. “Man, this looks like a futon,” he thought.

One Of The Biggest Icebergs In Recorded History Just Broke Loose From Antarctica

2017-07-12T13:31:17+00:00 July 12, 2017|

Scientists announced Wednesday that a much anticipated break at the Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica has occurred, unleashing a massive iceberg that is more than 2,200 square miles in area and weighs a trillion tons. In other words, the iceberg — among the largest in recorded history to splinter off the Antarctic continent — is close to the size of Delaware and consists of almost four times as much ice as the fast melting ice sheet of Greenland loses in a year. It is expected to be given the name “A68” soon, scientists said.

Extreme Coastal Sea Levels More Likely To Occur, New Data, Advanced Modeling Techniques Suggest

2017-07-12T10:49:18+00:00 July 12, 2017|

Improving projections for how much ocean levels may change in the future and what that means for coastal communities has vexed researchers studying sea level rise for years, but a new international study that incorporates extreme events may have just given researchers and coastal planners what they need. The study, published in Nature Communications uses newly available data and advanced models to improve global predictions when it comes to extreme sea levels. The results suggest that extreme sea levels will likely occur more frequently than previously predicted, particularly in the west coast regions of the U.S. and in large parts of Europe and Australia.

Seagrass Meadows—Critical Habitats For Juvenile Fish And Dugongs In The Johor Islands

2017-07-11T17:27:44+00:00 July 11, 2017|

Scientists at University of Malaya, Malaysia, have found that the seagrass meadows in Johor harbor three times more juvenile fish than coral reefs. They also found that the dugong herds there prefer certain types of meadows over others. Seagrass, the world's oldest living thing, is a marine flowering plant that forms vast underwater meadows throughout all the oceans of the world, except in the Antarctic. These flowering plants first appeared in fossil records 100 million years ago and are the key to the survival of our seas, by providing oxygen, filtering out pollutants and bacteria, and capturing large stores of carbon that would otherwise contribute to climate warming.

As The Arctic Gets Warmer, Our Winters Get Colder

2017-07-11T14:16:15+00:00 July 11, 2017|

In the winter of 2015, New York City’s Hudson River froze—a rare occurrence. Prior to the 2000s, the record shows that the Hudson froze in 1720, 1780, and 1821—a period that overlaps with the so-called Little Ice Age, when the Northern Hemisphere was cooler overall. But since the turn of the century, the lower Hudson has frozen not once, but twice: in 2015 and 2003.

Shells Record West Antarctic Glacier Retreat

2017-07-10T16:10:13+00:00 July 10, 2017|

Scientists are getting a much clearer picture of the retreat of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet over thousands of years, and of the forces driving it. New research indicates that warm waters pulled up from the deep by strong winds sharply undercut glaciers from about 11,000 years ago to 7,500 years ago. This incursion then stopped until it got under way again in the 1940s. The findings are important because they inform our understanding about how the ice may respond in the future.

Surveying Sea Floor Animals For Offshore Renewable Energy

2017-07-10T12:46:15+00:00 July 10, 2017|

There is growing interest in developing offshore wind and wave energy facilities in the Pacific Northwest. But not much is known about the sediment and animal life along the sea floor in the region. That presents a problem for renewable energy companies because they need to consider environmental implications before constructing facilities in the ocean.

Extreme Low-Oxygen Eddies In The Atlantic Produce Greenhouse Gases

2017-07-10T11:56:37+00:00 July 10, 2017|

Oxygen in the seawater is not only vital to most marine organisms, its concentrations also affect the chemistry of the ocean and that of the atmosphere above. In oceanic regions with very little oxygen, for example, large amounts of the potent greenhouse gas nitrous oxide, also called laughing gas, are produced via biogeochemical processes and can then be released to the atmosphere. Even though a natural moderate oxygen minimum zone (OMZ) exists along some of the eastern boundaries of the Atlantic Ocean, the Atlantic OMZ, unlike the OMZs of the Indian and Pacific oceans, was not considered to be a region of extremely low oxygen concentrations. New findings by an international research team led by the Kiel Excellence Cluster "Future Ocean" and the GEOMAR Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research Kiel, however, now imply that this picture has to be corrected. This study was published in the Nature Publishing Group journal Scientific Reports.

Deep-Sea Coral Reef Glow-In-The-Dark Secrets Revealed In New Research

2017-07-07T15:04:21+00:00 July 7, 2017|

Scientists have discovered the reason why some deep-sea coral reefs glow in the dark. Researchers from the University of Southampton found corals in deep water survived by making a special type of fluorescent protein. The research found the proteins responsible for acting as sunblock in corals in shallow waters worked differently in deep-sea reefs.

A Wave’s ‘Sweet Spot’ Revealed

2017-07-07T14:02:08+00:00 July 7, 2017|

For surfers, finding the "sweet spot," the most powerful part of the wave, is part of the thrill and the challenge. Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California postdoctoral researcher Nick Pizzo has found the exact location on the wave where a surfer gains the greatest speed to get the best ride. Published this month online in the Journal of Fluid Mechanics, Pizzo applied principles of physics at the ocean's surface -- where air and water meet -- to study how energy is transferred from the underlying wave to a particle on the surface, in this case, a surfer.

‘Weedy’ Fish Species To Take Over Our Future Oceans

2017-07-07T10:40:11+00:00 July 7, 2017|

University of Adelaide researchers have for the first time demonstrated that the ocean acidification expected in the future will reduce fish diversity significantly, with small 'weedy' species dominating marine environments. Published today in Current Biology, the researchers studied species interactions in natural marine environments at underwater volcanic vents, where concentrations of CO2 match those predicted for oceans at the end of the century. They were compared with adjacent marine environments with current CO2 levels.

Crunch Time: What Big Data Reveals About Ocean Health

2017-07-07T10:29:00+00:00 July 7, 2017|

DYING CORAL REEFS. Sea turtles choking on plastic trash. Plummeting fish stocks. There seems to be a never-ending daily drumbeat of negative ocean news, which can obscure progress in marine preservation. Case in point: A study published Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE found that ocean health has remained more or less stable over the past five years.

Jon White – From the President’s Office: 7-3-2017

2017-07-05T16:18:03+00:00 July 5, 2017|

As I’ve traveled across the nation in the last few months, I’ve had the opportunity to spend time with ocean devotees associated with NOAA’s Sea Grant program, including at the University of New Hampshire, MIT, the University of Alaska, and the University of Hawaii. These discussions have really brought to my attention the crucial role of Sea Grant in applying [...]

Distant Earthquakes Can Cause Underwater Landslides

2017-07-05T10:17:22+00:00 July 5, 2017|

New research finds large earthquakes can trigger underwater landslides thousands of miles away, weeks or months after the quake occurs. Researchers analyzing data from ocean bottom seismometers off the Washington-Oregon coast tied a series of underwater landslides on the Cascadia Subduction Zone, 80 to 161 kilometers (50 to 100 miles) off the Pacific Northwest coast, to a 2012 magnitude-8.6 earthquake in the Indian Ocean -- more than 13,500 kilometers (8,390 miles) away. These underwater landslides occurred intermittently for nearly four months after the April earthquake.

The Megalodon Was The Largest Shark To Have Ever Lived – Now We Know How It Disappeared

2017-07-03T15:24:09+00:00 July 3, 2017|

An artist’s impression of Carcharocles megalodon. (Photo credit: Karen Carr/CC) Large marine megafauna, including megalodon, the largest shark to have ever lived, disappeared during a global extinction event that had previously not been recognized as such. At the end of the Pliocene, between two and three million years ago, the planet entered a [...]

Boaty McBoatface Has Come Home From The Cold Abyss With ‘Unprecedented Data’

2017-07-03T13:38:24+00:00 July 3, 2017|

Scientists have gathered “unprecedented data” about some of the coldest oceanic abysses on Earth – thanks to Boaty McBoatface. The yellow submersible research vehicle returned home to the UK last week after its first voyage through the Antarctic Bottom Water, capturing data on temperature, speed of water flow and underwater turbulence in the Orkney Passage.

‘Red Teams’ Gain Prominence To Question Climate Science

2017-06-29T12:05:45+00:00 June 29, 2017|

(Click to enlarge) Global climate change could disrupt the global conveyer belt (Credit: NOAA) Trump administration officials are increasingly floating a new way to raise questions about the scientific findings that humans are driving climate change. It's called red team, blue team. (From Climatewire / by Scott Waldman) -- The concept, which originated in [...]

Member Highlight: The Beach Time Capsule

2017-06-29T09:32:55+00:00 June 29, 2017|

And to think it was all right there in her garage. A load of boxes pulled from biologist Dale Straughan's home yielded a veritable treasure trove for UC Santa Barbara researchers studying the impact of climate change on coastal biodiversity in California.

Impact Of Seismic Surveys On Zooplankton

2017-06-28T12:02:49+00:00 June 28, 2017|

Marine seismic surveys used in petroleum exploration could cause a two to three-fold increase in mortality of adult and larval zooplankton, new research published in leading science journal Nature Ecology and Evolution has found. Scientists from IMAS and the Centre for Marine Science and Technology (CMST) at Curtin University studied the impact of commercial seismic surveys on zooplankton populations by carrying out tests using seismic air guns in the ocean off Southern Tasmania.

A Month Into Hurricane Season, Charlie Crist Says Donald Trump Needs To Fill NOAA Post Now

2017-06-27T14:42:55+00:00 June 27, 2017|

(Click to enlarge) The U.S. Capital at night. (Credit: Will Ramos) Among the many positions in the federal government that have gone unfilled during the first five months of the Donald Trump administration is someone to lead the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). With hurricane season only about to get more intense in the coming [...]

Scientists Just Proved That Wildfires Dumped A Huge Amount Of Soot Atop Greenland’s Ice Sheet

2017-06-27T09:21:36+00:00 June 27, 2017|

Scientists have for the first time tracked soot from Canadian wildfires all the way to the Greenland ice sheet, where they found that the dark, sunlight-absorbing particles landed on the ice and had the potential to significantly enhance its melting — pointing to a possible new driver of sea level rise. It’s the first end-to-end documentation of a process that, it’s feared, could hasten Greenland’s melting in the future — and since the ice sheet could contribute over 20 feet of eventual sea level rise, any such process is one that scientists weigh carefully.

Jon White – From the President’s Office: 6-26-2017

2017-06-26T16:45:46+00:00 June 26, 2017|

How can the U.S. and China work together to advance global interests toward a safe, sustainable, prosperous ocean? I spent three days in Honolulu with seven ocean representatives from across the U.S. and eight from China to examine these topics in detail at a forum sponsored by the Center for American Progress (CAP) titled “Blue Future [...]

Sea Sponges Stay Put With Anchors That Bend But Don’t Break

2017-06-26T10:08:28+00:00 June 26, 2017|

Sea sponges known as Venus' flower baskets remain fixed to the sea floor with nothing more than an array of thin, hair-like anchors made essentially of glass. It's an important job, and new research suggests that it's the internal architecture of those anchors, known as basalia spicules, that helps them to do it. The spicules, each about half the diameter of a human hair, are made of a central silica (glass) core clad within 25 thin silica cylinders. Viewed in cross-section, the arrangement looks like the rings in a tree trunk. The new study by researchers in Brown University's School of Engineering shows that compared to spicules taken from a different sponge species that lacks the tree-ring architecture, the basalia spicules are able to bend up to 2.4 times further before breaking.

Chemistry Of Sea Spray Particles Linked For First Time To Formation Process

2017-06-23T16:48:17+00:00 June 23, 2017|

A team of researchers led by the University of California San Diego has identified for the first time what drives the observed differences in the chemical make-up of sea spray particles ejected from the ocean by breaking waves. The discovery could enable researchers to better understand how ocean chemistry and physics directly influence cloud formation processes. The improved understanding could make climate models more accurate, especially since clouds are the hardest variable to portray in current simulations.

Mysterious Sea Pickles Invading West Coast In Bizarre Bloom

2017-06-23T13:56:13+00:00 June 23, 2017|

Mysterious creatures called sea pickles are showing up in large numbers on the West Coast. These organisms are actually conglomerations of zooids—small, multicellular organisms—which come together into tubular shapes that in this case stretch from about 6 inches to 2 feet long, according to EarthFix, an offshoot of Oregon Public Broadcasting. Normally these animals, also known as pyrosomes, are found in tropical waters, and they also are bioluminescent, meaning they produce light. (Pyrosome is derived from the Greek pyro for “fire” and soma for “body.”) Not very well-studied, they can stretch up to 60 feet long, and look something like a living wind sock.

NOAA Says 3-Year Global Coral Bleaching Event Is Ending, But It’s Too Early To Celebrate

2017-06-22T11:33:18+00:00 June 22, 2017|

After three deadly years, a massive bleaching event that struck coral reefs across the globe now appears to be ending, scientists announced on Monday, June 19. Coral bleaching happens when corals are subjected to extreme changes in the environment. During coral bleaching, colorful coral reefs eject symbiotic algae from their tissue, which causes it to turn white or pale. This weakens the coral and makes it susceptible to disease.

Great Opportunities For Marine Research With New Underwater Vehicle

2017-06-21T17:38:08+00:00 June 21, 2017|

The University of Gothenburg soon will have its first autonomous underwater vehicle for research use. This will make it possible to conduct detailed studies of the seabed at great depths and track the climate thousands of years back in time. After more than two years of preparation, the University of Gothenburg has signed a contract that will make Sweden's first autonomous underwater vehicle for research use a reality.

The Latest Threat To Antarctica: An Insect And Plant Invasion

2017-06-21T09:40:25+00:00 June 21, 2017|

Antarctica’s pristine ice-white environment is going green and facing an unexpected threat – from the common house fly. Scientists say that as temperatures soar in the polar region, invading plants and insects, including the fly, pose a major conservation threat. More and more of these invaders, in the form of larvae or seeds, are surviving in coastal areas around the south pole, where temperatures have risen by more than 3C over the past three decades. Glaciers have retreated, exposing more land which has been colonised by mosses that have been found to be growing more quickly and thickly than ever before – providing potential homes for invaders. The process is particularly noticeable in the Antarctic peninsula, which has been shown to be the region of the continent that is most vulnerable to global warming.

Jon White – From the President’s Office: 6-19-2017

2017-06-19T16:57:01+00:00 June 19, 2017|

While many were being inspired by the excellent ocean events in D.C. as part of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation’s Capitol Hill Oceans Week (CHOW), I was being inspired in a different way by the ocean activities of several COL member institutions and associates in British Columbia and Alaska (including Ocean Networks Canada, the Alaska Ocean [...]

Two-headed Porpoise Pulled From The Ocean In The North Sea

2017-06-19T12:06:32+00:00 June 19, 2017|

A newly born two-headed porpoise has been documented by a group of Dutch fishermen and studied by a team of researchers from several institutions in the Netherlands. In their paper published in Deinsea—Online Journal of the Natural History Museum Rotterdam, the researchers report how the fishermen caught the porpoise, photographed it and then threw it back into the ocean. Reports of conjoined twins in cetaceans (a family that includes whales, porpoises and dolphins) are rare, quite naturally because they occur in the open sea—it is also likely that most would die shortly after birth, like the specimen found by the fishermen. In this case, it appears the porpoise was born without the ability to swim.

Member Highlight: Toxic Mercury Levels Are Actually Declining In Alaskan Polar Bears—But That’s Not As Great As It Sounds

2018-01-02T13:55:29+00:00 June 19, 2017|

Imagine: vast expanses of frozen sea, stretching from the northern coast of Alaska into the Arctic horizon. Welcome to the Southern Beaufort Sea—or at least, the Southern Beaufort Sea as it used to be. This icy Arctic ecosystem is dominated by the majestic polar bear, but warmer temperatures are changing both the landscape and its inhabitants. In a recent study in Polar Research, scientists at the University of Connecticut and the United States Geological Survey found that mercury levels measured in Southern Beaufort polar bears' hair have actually declined significantly in recent years, particularly in male polar bears. Surprisingly, despite worries about increasing pollution, mercury levels dropped by about 13 percent per year in samples collected from 2004 to 2011. The decrease was insignificant in female bears (4.4 percent), but much higher in male bears (15 percent). “We see this very substantial drop in polar bear mercury concentration over a relatively short period of time,” says Melissa McKinney, first author of the study and assistant professor at the University of Connecticut.

Slow Earthquakes In Ocean Subduction Zones Shed Light On Tsunami Risk

2017-06-16T10:49:50+00:00 June 16, 2017|

Understanding "slow-slip" earthquakes on the seafloor—seismic events that occur over a period of days or weeks—is giving researchers new insights into undersea earthquakes and the subsequent creation of tsunamis. Through an ocean discovery program supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF), scientists are studying the seafloor off the coast of Japan. The region could provide vital clues. Two tectonic plates, the Pacific Plate and the Eurasian Plate, meet there. In this ocean trench zone, the Pacific plate slides beneath the Eurasian plate. Such subduction zones are often associated with large earthquakes.

Finding New Homes Won’t Help Emperor Penguins Cope With Climate Change

2017-06-16T08:53:40+00:00 June 16, 2017|

If projections for melting Antarctic sea ice through 2100 are correct, the vanishing landscape will strip Emperor penguins of their breeding and feeding grounds and put populations at risk. But like other species that migrate to escape the wrath of climate change, can these iconic animals be spared simply by moving to new locations? According to new research led by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), they cannot. Scientists report that dispersal may help sustain global Emperor penguin populations for a limited time, but, as sea ice conditions continue to deteriorate, the 54 colonies that exist today will face devastating declines by the end of this century. They say the Emperor penguin should be listed as an endangered species. The study was published in the June 6, 2017 edition of the journal Biological Conservation.

Oyster Shells Inspire New Method To Make Superstrong, Flexible Polymers

2017-06-15T16:36:30+00:00 June 15, 2017|

Researchers at Columbia Engineering have demonstrated for the first time a new technique that takes its inspiration from the nacre of oyster shells, a composite material that has extraordinary mechanical properties, including great strength and resilience. By changing the crystallization speed of a polymer initially well mixed with nanoparticles, the team was able to control how the nanoparticles self-assemble into structures at three very different length scale regimes. This multiscale ordering can make the base material almost an order of magnitude stiffer while still retaining the desired deformability and lightweight behavior of the polymeric materials. The study, led by Sanat Kumar, Bykhovsky Professor of Chemical Engineering, is published June 7 online in ACS Central Science.

Faster-Moving Sea Ice Forces Polar Bears To Use More Energy

2017-06-15T12:49:07+00:00 June 15, 2017|

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Rapid global warming has sped up the movement of sea ice off Alaska’s coasts, and already at-risk polar bears are paying a price, a new U.S. study says. Most sea ice moves throughout the year and the iconic white bears are on a perpetual walk to stay within their preferred habitat, said U.S. Geological Survey research ecologist George Durner, lead author of the study. He compares it to living on a treadmill that has picked up speed because ice is thinner, more brittle and moving faster because of wind and ocean currents.

Glass Eels: See-Through, Slippery And Guided By Magnetism And Tides

2017-06-14T12:45:43+00:00 June 14, 2017|

European eels are born and die in the North Atlantic Ocean, but spend most of their lives in rivers or estuaries across Europe and North Africa. In between, they traverse thousands of miles of ocean, where it’s often unclear which way is up or down. Scientists have therefore long suspected that these critically endangered fish use magnetism to help guide them. A study published Friday in Science Advances shows, for the first time, that European eels might link magnetic cues with the tides to navigate. Studying juveniles during the crucial stage when they move toward land from open ocean, the authors found that eels faced different directions based on whether the tide was flowing in (flood tide) or out (ebb tide).

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