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  • richardmitnick 11:21 am on November 23, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Grace C. Young, , Ocean studies, , , ,   

    From CERN openlab: Women in STEM – “CERN alumna turned deep-sea explorer” Grace C. Young 

    Cern New Bloc

    Cern New Particle Event

    CERN New Masthead


    26 October, 2017
    No writer credit


    Each summer, the international research laboratory CERN, home to the Large Hadron Collider, welcomes dozens of students to work alongside seasoned scientists on cutting-edge particle physics research. Many of these students will pursue physics research in graduate school, but some find themselves applying the lessons they learned at CERN to new domains.

    In 2011, MIT undergraduate Grace Young was one of these CERN summer students.

    Like many young adults, Young didn’t know what career path she wanted to pursue. “I tried all the majors,” Young says. “Physics, engineering, architecture, math, computer science. Separately, I always loved both the ocean and building things; it wasn’t until I learned about ocean engineering that I knew I had found my calling.”

    Today, Young is completing her PhD in ocean engineering at the University of Oxford and is chief scientist for the deep-sea submarine Pisces VI. She develops technology for ocean research and in 2014 lived underwater for 15 days. During a recent visit to CERN, Young spoke with Symmetry writer Sarah Charley about the journey that led her from fundamental physics back to her first love, the ocean.

    As a junior in high school you competed in Intel’s International Science Fair and won a trip to CERN. What was your project?
    A classmate and I worked in a quantum physics lab at University of Maryland. We designed and built several devices, called particle traps, that had potential applications for quantum computing. We soldered wires onto the mirror inside a flashlight to create a bowl-shaped electric field and then applied alternating current to repeatedly flip the field, which made tiny charged particles hover in mid-air.

    We were really jumping into the deep end on quantum physics; it was kind of amazing that it worked! Winning a trip to CERN was a dream come true. It was a transformative experience that had a huge impact on my career path.

    You then came back to CERN as a freshman at MIT. What is it about CERN and particle physics that made you want to return?
    My peek inside CERN the previous year sparked an interest that drove me to apply for the CERN openlab internship [a technology development collaboration between CERN scientists and members of companies or research institutes].

    Although I learned a lot from my assignment, my interest and affinity for CERN derives from the community of researchers from diverse backgrounds and disciplines from all over the world. It was CERN’s high-powered global community of scientists congregated in one beautiful place to solve big problems that was a magnet for me.

    You say you’ve always loved the ocean. What is it about the ocean that inspires you?
    ’ve loved being by the water since I was born. I find it very humbling, standing on the shore and having the waves breaking at my feet.

    This huge body of water differentiates our planet from other rocks in space, yet so little is known about it. The more time I spent on or in the water, either sailing or diving, the more I began taking a deeper interest in marine life and the essential role the ocean plays in sustaining life as we know it on Earth.

    What does an ocean engineer actually do?
    One big reason that we’ve only explored 5 percent of the ocean is because the deep sea is so forbidding for humans. We simply don’t have the biology to see or communicate underwater, much less exist for more than a few minutes just below surface.

    But all this is changing with better underwater imaging, sensors and robotic technologies. As an ocean engineer, I design and build things such as robotic submersibles, which can monitor the health of fisheries in marine sanctuaries, track endangered species and create 3-D maps of underwater ice shelves. These tools, combined with data collected during field research, enable me and my colleagues to explore the ocean and monitor the human impact on its fragile ecosystems.

    I also design new eco-seawalls and artificial coral reefs to protect coastlines from rising sea levels and storm surges while reviving essential marine ecosystems.

    What questions are you hoping to answer during your career as an ocean engineer and researcher?
    How does the ocean support so much biodiversity? More than 70 percent of our planet is covered by water, producing more than half the oxygen we breathe, storing more carbon dioxide than all terrestrial plant life and feeding billions of humans. And yet 95 percent of our ocean remains unexplored and essentially unknown.

    The problem we are facing today is that we are destroying so many of the ocean’s ecosystems before we even know they exist. We can learn a lot about how to stay alive and thrive by studying the oceanic habitats, leading to unforeseeable discoveries and scientific advancements.

    What are some of your big goals with this work?
    We face big existential ocean-related problems, and I’d like to help develop solutions for them. Overfishing, acidification, pollution and warming temperatures are destroying the ocean’s ecosystems and affecting humans by diminishing a vital food supply, shifting weather patterns and accelerating sea-level rise. Quite simply, if we don’t know or understand the problems, we can’t fix them.

    Have you found any unexpected overlaps between the research at CERN and the research on a submarine?
    Vision isn’t a good way to see the underwater world. The ocean is pitch black in most of its volume, and the creatures don’t rely on vision. They feel currents with their skin, use sound and can read the chemicals in the water to smell food. It would make sense for humans to use sensors that do that same thing.

    Physicists faced this same challenge and found other ways to characterize subatomic particles and the celestial bodies without relying on vision. Ocean sciences are moving in this same direction.

    What do you think ocean researchers and particle physicists can learn from each other?
    I think we already know it: That is, we can only solve big problems by working together. I’m convinced that only by working together across disciplines, ethnicities and nationalities can we survive as a species.

    Of course, the physical sciences are integral to everything related to ocean engineering, but it’s really CERN’s problem-solving methodology that’s most inspiring and applicable. CERN was created to solve big problems by combining the best of human learning irrespective of nationality, ethnicity or discipline. Our Pisces VI deep sea submarine team is multidisciplinary, multinational and—just like CERN—it’s focused on exploring the unknown that’s essential to life as we know it.

    See the full article here.

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    About CERN openlab
    CERN openlab is a unique public-private partnership that accelerates the development of cutting-edge solutions for the worldwide LHC community and wider scientific research. Through CERN openlab, CERN collaborates with leading ICT companies and research institutes.

    Within this framework, CERN provides access to its complex IT infrastructure and its engineering experience, in some cases even extended to collaborating institutes worldwide. Testing in CERN’s demanding environment provides the ICT industry partners with valuable feedback on their products while allowing CERN to assess the merits of new technologies in their early stages of development for possible future use. This framework also offers a neutral ground for carrying out advanced R&D with more than one company.

    CERN openlab was created in 2001 (link is external) and is now in the phase V (2015-2017). This phase tackles ambitious challenges covering the most critical needs of IT infrastructures in domains such as data acquisition, computing platforms, data storage architectures, compute provisioning and management, networks and communication, and data analytics.

    Meet CERN in a variety of places:

    Quantum Diaries

    Cern Courier




    CERN CMS New

    CERN LHCb New II


    CERN LHC Map
    CERN LHC Grand Tunnel

    CERN LHC particles

    Quantum Diaries

  • richardmitnick 9:19 am on August 22, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Human interference in the deep sea could already be outpacing our basic understanding of how it functions, Ocean studies, Shocking gaps in basic knowledge of deep sea life,   

    From U Oxford: “Shocking gaps in basic knowledge of deep sea life” 

    U Oxford bloc

    Oxford University

    No image caption or credit

    Human interference in the deep sea could already be outpacing our basic understanding of how it functions, University scientists have warned. As a result, without increased research and an immediate review of deep ocean conservation measures, the creatures that live there face an uncertain future.

    Vibrant, mysterious and often referred to as the ‘final frontier’, the deep sea floor is the largest habitat on Earth. This vast area, which lies below 200m and accounts for 60% of the surface of the planet, is home to an array of creatures. However, very little is known about how it functions and, in particular, how populations of deep sea creatures are interconnected.

    In a new review published in Molecular Ecology, scientists from the Department of Zoology at Oxford University have considered all knowledge published to date of deep sea invertebrates. The paper highlights the disparity between our basic knowledge of the ecology of deep sea animals and the growing impact of humans on the deep ocean.

    Over the last thirty years there have only been 77 population genetics studies published on invertebrate species, the type of animals that dominate these deep areas. Of these papers, the majority have focused on commercial species at the shallower end of the depth range of up to 1000m, and only one has been conducted on creatures that live deeper than 5000m. As a result, life in the depths of the ocean remains a relative mystery.

    The review attempts to use what little information there is to paint a cohesive picture of how populations of deep sea creatures are connected over depth and distance. Often animals are disconnected over a few hundred metres of depth but relatively well connected over a few 1000 km distance.

    Christopher Roterman, co-author and postdoctoral researcher in Oxford’s Department of Zoology, said: ‘Today humans have an unprecedented ability to effect the lives of creatures living in one of the most remote environments on earth – the deep sea. At a time where the exploitation of deep sea resources is increasing, scientists are still trying to understand basic aspects of the biology and ecology of deep sea communities.’

    The effects of human activity, such as pollution, destructive trawl-fishing, deep sea mining and climate change, appear to be intensifying, and increasingly affecting populations of seafloor invertebrates. The impacts on fragile, slow-growing coral gardens are of particular concern. As ecosystem engineers, corals are biodiversity hotspots, potentially as vital to the seabed as the rainforests are to the Earth.

    Christopher added: ‘Population genetics is an important tool that helps us to understand how deep sea communities function, and in turn how resilient they will be in the future to the increasing threat of human impacts. These insights can help governments and other stakeholders to figure out ways to control and sustainably manage human activities, to ensure a healthy deep sea ecosystem.’

    The researchers acknowledge that getting data from the deep sea is costly and logistically challenging. However, they stress that recent technological developments mean that more genetic information about populations can be collected than ever before.

    Michelle Taylor, co-author and senior postdoctoral researcher in Oxford’s Department of Zoology, said: ‘Next-generation sequencing allows us to scan larger and larger portions of an animal’s genome and at a lower cost. This makes deep sea population genetic studies less costly, and for many animals, the sheer volume of data these new technologies create means they can now be studied for the first time.

    ‘As scientists it is our duty to gather as much basic information about these creatures as we can and share it, and work with the people that set the rules of the seas – who have the power to make management decisions. We cannot bury our heads in the sand and think that people are not going to try and exploit resources in the deep sea, so science needs to catch up.’

    See the full article here.

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    U Oxford campus

    Oxford is a collegiate university, consisting of the central University and colleges. The central University is composed of academic departments and research centres, administrative departments, libraries and museums. The 38 colleges are self-governing and financially independent institutions, which are related to the central University in a federal system. There are also six permanent private halls, which were founded by different Christian denominations and which still retain their Christian character.

    The different roles of the colleges and the University have evolved over time.

  • richardmitnick 2:00 pm on June 24, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Improved understanding of a widely used 'thermometer' for Earth's ancient oceans, Ocean studies,   

    From EMSL: “Improved understanding of a widely used ‘thermometer’ for Earth’s ancient oceans” 



    June 16, 2017
    Tom Rickey
    (509) 375-3732

    Foraminifera – a key to understanding ancient Earth. Credit: Jennifer Fehrenbacher/Oregon State University

    Scientists have improved our ability to interpret one of the most common measures of the temperature of Earth’s oceans in the distant past.

    The measurement is based on the ancient remains of tiny marine organisms called foraminifera, a type of plankton that lives and feeds in water.

    The organisms use calcium and magnesium from seawater to help form their shells – more magnesium when ocean temperatures are warmer and less when the temperatures are cooler. But magnesium levels can vary significantly within individual shells, and scientists have been exploring why.

    In a paper published recently in Nature Communications, scientists explain that changes in light levels from daytime to nighttime can cause the organisms to vary how they build their shells, which plays a direct role in determining the levels of magnesium in the shells. The information gives scientists a better understanding of the biological processes involved when using this plankton-based temperature gauge to assess past ocean conditions.

    The project was led by Jennifer Fehrenbacher of Oregon State University and also included scientists from UC Davis, the University of Washington, and EMSL, the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, a Department of Energy Office of Science User Facility at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. The team included John B. Cliff III and Zihua Zhu from EMSL and PNNL.

    Earlier from EMSL:

    Daily Light/Dark Cycle Controls Patterns within Marine Protist Shells

    The trace element composition of the calcite shells of foraminifera, sand grain-sized marine protists, is commonly used to reconstruct the history of ocean conditions in Earth’s past. A recent study explored environmental and biological factors that control the compositional variability of the element magnesium (Mg), which is used to reconstruct past ocean temperature.

    The Impact

    These findings suggest the same light-triggered mechanism is responsible for Mg banding in two species that occupy different ecological niches in the ocean, and that Mg variability is an integral component of shell-building processes in planktic foraminifera. The experimental results will be used to update a 70-year-old model of foraminifera shell development and could be used to develop more accurate methods for assessing past ocean conditions.


    The relationship between seawater temperature and the average Mg/Calcium (Ca) ratios in planktic foraminifera is well established, providing an essential tool for reconstructing past ocean temperatures. However, the mechanism responsible for variability in the trace element composition within individual shells is poorly understood. In particular, many species display alternating high and low Mg bands within their shell walls that cannot be explained by temperature alone. Recent experiments demonstrate intrashell Mg variability in Orbulina universa, which forms a spherical terminal shell, is paced by the daily light and dark cycle. Whether Mg heterogeneity is also controlled by the light and dark cycle in species with more complex shell structures was previously unknown. To address this knowledge gap, a team of researchers from Oregon State University; University of California, Davis; University of Washington; and EMSL, the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, a DOE Office of Science User Facility, combined culture techniques and high-resolution NanoSIMS imaging to show high Mg/Ca-calcite forms at night (in dark conditions) in cultured specimens of the multi-chambered species Neogloboquadrina dutertrei. The results also demonstrate N. dutertrei adds a significant amount of calcite, as well as nearly all Mg bands, after the final chamber forms. These results have implications for interpreting patterns of calcification in N. dutertrei, and suggest daily Mg banding is an intrinsic component of biomineralization in planktic foraminifera, likely modified by growth conditions. Moreover, the findings suggest the overall Mg content of the shell is primarily controlled by temperature, while the amplitude of the intrashell banding, which is triggered by a light response, is modulated by pH. By shedding light on mechanisms that control Mg variability in the shells of diverse planktic foraminifera, the findings could lead to improved methods for reconstructing past ocean conditions.

    PI Contact

    Jennifer S. Fehrenbacher
    Oregon State University

    EMSL Contacts

    Zihua Zhu

    John Cliff


    This work was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science (Office of Biological and Environmental Research), including support of the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL), a DOE Office of Science User Facility; and the U.S. National Science Foundation.

    See the full article here .

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    EMSL campus

    Welcome to EMSL. EMSL is a national scientific user facility that is funded and sponsored by DOE’s Office of Biological & Environmental Research. As a user facility, our scientific capabilities – people, instruments and facilities – are available for use by the global research community. We support BER’s mission to provide innovative solutions to the nation’s environmental and energy production challenges in areas such as atmospheric aerosols, feedstocks, global carbon cycling, biogeochemistry, subsurface science and energy materials.

    A deep understanding of molecular-level processes is critical to gaining a predictive, systems-level understanding of the impacts of aerosols and terrestrial systems on climate change; making clean, affordable, abundant energy; and cleaning up our legacy wastes. Visit our Science page to learn how EMSL leads in these areas, through our Science Themes.

    Team’s in Our DNA. We approach science differently than many institutions. We believe in – and have proven – the value of drawing together members of the scientific community and assembling the people, resources and facilities to solve problems. It’s in our DNA, since our founder Dr. Wiley’s initial call to create a user facility that would facilitate “synergism between the physical, mathematical, and life sciences.” We integrate experts across disciplines; experiment with theory; and our user program proposal calls with other user facilities.

    We proudly provide an enriched, customized experience that allows users to connect with our people and capabilities in an environment where we focus on solving problems. We collaborate with researchers from academia, government labs and industry, and from nearly all 50 states and from other countries.

  • richardmitnick 10:14 am on March 16, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Deep-sea corals, Desmophyllum dianthus, Ocean studies, Study: Cold Climates and Ocean Carbon Sequestration, Why the earth goes through periodic climate change   

    From Caltech: “Study: Cold Climates and Ocean Carbon Sequestration” 

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    Robert Perkins
    (626) 395-1862

    Tony Wang (left) and Jess Adkins (right) with samples of Desmophyllum dianthus fossils.

    Deep-sea corals reveal why atmospheric carbon was reduced during colder time periods

    We know a lot about how carbon dioxide (CO2) levels can drive climate change, but how about the way that climate change can cause fluctuations in CO2 levels? New research from an international team of scientists reveals one of the mechanisms by which a colder climate was accompanied by depleted atmospheric CO2 during past ice ages.

    The overall goal of the work is to better understand how and why the earth goes through periodic climate change, which could shed light on how man-made factors could affect the global climate.

    Earth’s average temperature has naturally fluctuated by about 4 to 5 degrees Celsius over the course of the past million years as the planet has cycled in and out of glacial periods. During that time, the earth’s atmospheric CO2 levels have fluctuated between roughly 180 and 280 parts per million (ppm) every 100,000 years or so. (In recent years, man-made carbon emissions have boosted that concentration up to over 400 ppm.)

    About 10 years ago, researchers noticed a close correspondence between the fluctuations in CO2 levels and in temperature over the last million years. When the earth is at its coldest, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is also at its lowest. During the most recent ice age, which ended about 11,000 years ago, global temperatures were 5 degrees Celsius lower than they are today, and atmospheric CO2 concentrations were at 180 ppm.

    Using a library of more than 10,000 deep-sea corals collected by Caltech’s Jess Adkins, an international team of scientists has shown that periods of colder climates are associated with higher phytoplankton efficiency and a reduction in nutrients in the surface of the Southern Ocean (the ocean surrounding the Antarctic), which is related to an increase in carbon sequestration in the deep ocean. A paper about their research appears the week of March 13 in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    “It is critical to understand why atmospheric CO2 concentration was lower during the ice ages. This will help us understand how the ocean will respond to ongoing anthropogenic CO2 emissions,” says Xingchen (Tony) Wang, lead author of the study. Wang was a graduate student at Princeton while conducting the research in the lab of Daniel Sigman, Dusenbury Professor of Geological and Geophysical Sciences. He is now a Simons Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow on the Origins of Life at Caltech.

    There is 60 times more carbon in the ocean than in the atmosphere—partly because the ocean is so big. The mass of the world’s oceans is roughly 270 times greater than that of the atmosphere. As such, the ocean is the greatest regulator of carbon in the atmosphere, acting as both a sink and a source for atmospheric CO2.

    Biological processes are the main driver of CO2 absorption from the atmosphere to the ocean. Just like photosynthesizing trees and plants on land, plankton at the surface of the sea turn CO2 into sugars that are eventually consumed by other creatures. As the sea creatures who consume those sugars—and the carbon they contain—die, they sink to the deep ocean, where the carbon is locked away from the atmosphere for a long time. This process is called the “biological pump.”

    A healthy population of phytoplankton helps lock away carbon from the atmosphere. In order to thrive, phytoplankton need nutrients—notably, nitrogen, phosphorus, and iron. In most parts of the modern ocean, phytoplankton deplete all of the available nutrients in the surface ocean, and the biological pump operates at maximum efficiency.

    However, in the modern Southern Ocean, there is a limited amount of iron—which means that there are not enough phytoplankton to fully consume the nitrogen and phosphorus in the surface waters. When there is less living biomass, there is also less that can die and sink to the bottom—which results in a decrease in carbon sequestration. The biological pump is not currently operating as efficiently as it theoretically could.

    To track the efficiency of the biological pump over the span of the past 40,000 years, Adkins and his colleagues collected more than 10,000 fossils of the coral Desmophyllum dianthus.

    Why coral? Two reasons: first, as it grows, coral accretes a skeleton around itself, precipitating calcium carbonate (CaCO3) and other trace elements (including nitrogen) out of the water around it. That process creates a rocky record of the chemistry of the ocean. Second, coral can be precisely dated using a combination of radiocarbon and uranium dating.

    “Finding a few centimeter-tall fossil corals 2,000 meters deep in the ocean is no trivial task,” says Adkins, Smits Family Professor of Geochemistry and Global Environmental Science at Caltech.

    Adkins and his colleagues collected coral from the relatively narrow (500-mile) gap known as the Drake Passage between South America and Antarctica (among other places). Because the Southern Ocean flows around Antarctica, all of its waters funnel through that gap—making the samples Adkins collected a robust record of the water throughout the Southern Ocean.

    Wang analyzed the ratios of two isotopes of nitrogen atoms in these corals – nitrogen-14 (14N, the most common variety of the atom, with seven protons and seven neutrons in its nucleus) and nitrogen-15 (15N, which has an extra neutron). When phytoplankton consume nitrogen, they prefer 14N to 15N. As a result, there is a correlation between the ratio of nitrogen isotopes in sinking organic matter (which the corals then eat as it falls to the seafloor) and how much nitrogen is being consumed in the surface ocean—and, by extension, the efficiency of the biological pump.

    A higher amount of 15N in the fossils indicates that the biological pump was operating more efficiently at that time. An analogy would be monitoring what a person eats in their home. If they are eating more of their less-liked foods, then one could assume that the amount of food in their pantry is running low.

    Indeed, Wang found that higher amounts of 15N were present in fossils corresponding to the last ice age, indicating that the biological pump was operating more efficiently during that time. As such, the evidence suggests that colder climates allow more biomass to grow in the surface Southern Ocean—likely because colder climates experience stronger winds, which can blow more iron into the Southern Ocean from the continents. That biomass consumes carbon, then dies and sinks, locking it away from the atmosphere.

    Adkins and his colleagues plan to continue probing the coral library for further details about the cycles of ocean chemistry changes over the past several hundred thousand years.

    The study is titled “Deep-sea coral evidence for lower Southern Ocean surface nitrate concentrations during the last ice age.” Coauthors include scientists from Caltech, Princeton University, Pomona College, the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Germany, University of Bristol, and ETH Zurich in Switzerland. This research was funded by the National Science Foundation, Princeton University, the European Research Council, and the Natural Environment Research Council.

    See the full article here .

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    The California Institute of Technology (commonly referred to as Caltech) is a private research university located in Pasadena, California, United States. Caltech has six academic divisions with strong emphases on science and engineering. Its 124-acre (50 ha) primary campus is located approximately 11 mi (18 km) northeast of downtown Los Angeles. “The mission of the California Institute of Technology is to expand human knowledge and benefit society through research integrated with education. We investigate the most challenging, fundamental problems in science and technology in a singularly collegial, interdisciplinary atmosphere, while educating outstanding students to become creative members of society.”
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  • richardmitnick 11:21 am on March 2, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER), , Ocean studies   

    From NSF: “NSF announces new Long-Term Ecological Research sites off Alaska, New England coasts” 

    National Science Foundation

    March 1, 2017

    Scientists will expand research on ocean food webs in ecosystems that include recreational and commercial fisheries.

    Scientists at the Northern Gulf of Alaska LTER site conduct research off the coast of Alaska.

    National Science Foundation (NSF) grants will support two new Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) sites. Scientists will conduct research along the Northeast U.S. continental shelf and in the northern Gulf of Alaska, regions known for productive fisheries and abundant marine resources.

    The new LTER sites were each awarded $5.6 million over five years, adding to 25 existing LTER sites in ecosystems including the open ocean, coral reefs, deserts and grasslands. The complex food webs in these regions are affected by human activities, short-term environmental variability and long-term ecosystem changes.

    “The new LTER sites will bring new locations, technologies and scientists to the challenge of understanding our coastal oceans,” says Rick Murray, director of NSF’s Division of Ocean Sciences. “The sites are in areas where there’s much recreational and commercial fishing, and both sites are in the midst of significant environmental changes.”

    Murray adds that “research at the new sites will matter to everyone who eats U.S. seafood, is involved in coastal industries, or depends on the coastal oceans in any way. That includes all of us, through the oceans’ importance in weather and climate and a long list of other ‘ecosystem services’ the sea provides.”

    Researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), along with scientists at the University of Massachusetts, Wellesley College and the University of Rhode Island, will lead the Northeast U.S. Shelf LTER site.

    Scientists at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, in collaboration with researchers at Western Washington University, Oregon State University and the University of California, Santa Cruz, will manage the Northern Gulf of Alaska LTER site.

    Northeast U.S. Shelf LTER site

    Scientists have documented environmental changes in the Atlantic Ocean off the U.S. Northeast coast, but they’ve lacked an understanding of the links among the ocean environment, plankton food webs and fish stocks. That has limited their ability to predict how this ecosystem will respond to environmental change. Research at the new LTER site will fill that gap.

    The NSF Northeast U.S. Shelf LTER site spans the continental shelf across an area connecting the WHOI-operated Martha’s Vineyard Coastal Observatory with the Pioneer Array, part of NSF’s Ocean Observatories Initiative. The Pioneer Array, a group of moorings and other instruments, is located off the coast of southern New England where coastal waters meet the open ocean.

    These instruments collect continuous data and, along with samples retrieved by scientists aboard ships, will become integral parts of ecological models of the changing Atlantic ecosystem.

    “This is an exciting opportunity to develop a much more detailed understanding of the ocean,” says WHOI biologist Heidi Sosik, principal investigator of the project. “We want to know how different pathways in the food web may shift seasonally or with environmental change. Ultimately, we hope this knowledge can help promote science-based stewardship of marine ecosystems and be applied to the ocean beyond the waters of the Northeast.”

    Northern Gulf of Alaska LTER site

    Two decades of research along Alaska’s Seward Line — a series of ocean sampling stations extending from Resurrection Bay near Seward, Alaska to the continental slope 150 miles offshore — are the foundation of the new NSF Northern Gulf of Alaska LTER site.

    “We’ve monitored Prince William Sound and the continental shelf long enough to know where many of the important features are,” says Russ Hopcroft, a scientist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the principal investigator of the new LTER site. “But until now, we haven’t been able to study the processes and mechanisms in-depth behind what we’ve been observing.”

    The new LTER site will allow researchers to make observations across a larger geographic region. It will also give scientists an opportunity to undertake studies aboard the NSF research vessel Sikuliaq, operated by the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

    Researchers at the Northern Gulf of Alaska LTER site will study the gulf’s waters, which support the well-known fish, crabs, seabirds and marine mammals of Alaska.

    The scientists say that the addition of the Northern Gulf of Alaska site to the LTER network will lead to a better understanding of an ecosystem with many of the nation’s largest fisheries.

    See the full article here .

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    The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 “to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense…we are the funding source for approximately 24 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by America’s colleges and universities. In many fields such as mathematics, computer science and the social sciences, NSF is the major source of federal backing.


  • richardmitnick 8:30 am on December 13, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Ocean studies   

    From JPL-Caltech: “Earth’s Magnetic Fields Could Track Ocean Heat: NASA” 

    NASA JPL Banner


    December 12, 2016
    News Media Contact
    Alan Buis
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

    Patrick Lynch
    NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

    Written by Kate Ramsayer, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

    NASA scientists are developing a new way to use satellite observations of magnetic fields to measure heat stored in the ocean. Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

    As Earth warms, much of the extra heat is stored in the planet’s ocean — but monitoring the magnitude of that heat content is a difficult task.

    A surprising feature of the tides could help, however. Scientists at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, are developing a new way to use satellite observations of magnetic fields to measure heat stored in the ocean.

    As Earth warms, much of the extra heat is stored in the planet’s ocean — but monitoring the magnitude of that heat content is a difficult task.

    A surprising feature of the tides could help, however. Scientists at aNASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, are developing a new way to use satellite observations of magnetic fields to measure heat stored in the ocean.

    “If you’re concerned about understanding global warming, or Earth’s energy balance, a big unknown is what’s going into the ocean,” said Robert Tyler, a research scientist at Goddard. “We know the surfaces of the oceans are heating up, but we don’t have a good handle on how much heat is being stored deep in the ocean.”

    Despite the significance of ocean heat to Earth’s climate, it remains a variable that has substantial uncertainty when scientists measure it globally. Current measurements are made mainly by Argo floats, but these do not provide complete coverage in time or space. If it is successful, this new method could be the first to provide global ocean heat measurements, integrated over all depths, using satellite observations.

    Tyler’s method depends on several geophysical features of the ocean. Seawater is a good electrical conductor, so as saltwater sloshes around the ocean basins it causes slight fluctuations in Earth’s magnetic field lines. The ocean flow attempts to drag the field lines around, Tyler said. The resulting magnetic fluctuations are relatively small, but have been detected from an increasing number of events including swells, eddies, tsunamis and tides.

    “The recent launch of the European Space Agency’s Swarm satellites, and their magnetic survey, are providing unprecedented observational data of the magnetic fluctuations,” Tyler said. “With this comes new opportunities.”


    Researchers know where and when the tides are moving ocean water, and with the high-resolution data from the Swarm satellites, they can pick out the magnetic fluctuations due to these regular ocean movements.

    That’s where another geophysical feature comes in. The magnetic fluctuations of the tides depend on the electrical conductivity of the water — and the electrical conductivity of the water depends on its temperature.

    For Tyler, the question then is: “By monitoring these magnetic fluctuations, can we monitor the ocean temperature?”

    At the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco this week, Tyler and collaborator Terence Sabaka, also at Goddard, presented the first results. They provide a key proof-of-concept of the method by demonstrating that global ocean heat content can be recovered from “noise-free” ocean tidal magnetic signals generated by a computer model. When they try to do this with the “noisy” observed signals, it doesn’t yet provide the accuracy needed to monitor changes in the heat content.

    But, Tyler said, there is much room for improvement in how the data are processed and modeled, and the Swarm satellites continue to collect magnetic data. This is a first attempt at using satellite magnetic data to monitor ocean heat, he said, and there is still much more to be done before the technique could successfully resolve this key variable. For example, by identifying fluctuations caused by other ocean movements, like eddies or other tidal components, scientists can extract even more information and get more refined measurements of ocean heat content and how it’s changing.

    More than 90 percent of the excess heat in the Earth system goes into the ocean, said Tim Boyer, a scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Environmental Information. Scientists currently monitor ocean heat with shipboard measurements and Argo floats. While these measurements and others have seen a steady increase in heat since 1955, researchers still need more complete information, he said.

    “Even with the massive effort with the Argo floats, we still don’t have as much coverage of the ocean as we would really like in order to lower the uncertainties,” Boyer said. “If you’re able to measure global ocean heat content directly and completely from satellites, that would be fantastic.”

    Changing ocean temperatures have impacts that stretch across the globe. In Antarctica, floating sections of the ice sheet are retreating in ways that can’t be explained only by changes in atmospheric temperatures, said Catherine Walker, an ice scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

    She and her colleagues studied glaciers in Antarctica that lose an average of 6.5 to 13 feet (2 to 4 meters) of elevation per year. They looked at different options to explain the variability in melting — surrounding sea ice, winds, salinity, air temperatures — and what correlated most was influxes of warmer ocean water.

    “These big influxes of warm water come onto the continental shelf in some years and affect the rate at which ice melts,” Walker said. She and her colleagues are presenting the research at the AGU meeting.

    Walker’s team has identified an area on the Antarctic Peninsula where warmer waters may have infiltrated inland, under the ice shelf — which could have impacts on sea level rise.

    Float and ship measurements around Antarctica are scarce, but deep water temperature measurements can be achieved using tagged seals. That has its drawbacks, however: “It’s random, and we can’t control where they go,” Walker said. Satellite measurements of ocean heat content and temperatures would be very useful for the Southern Ocean, she added.

    Ocean temperatures also impact life in the ocean — from microscopic phytoplankton on up the food chain. Different phytoplankton thrive at different temperatures and need different nutrients.

    “Increased stratification in the ocean due to increased heating is going to lead to winners and losers within the phytoplankton communities,” said Stephanie Schollaert Uz, a scientist at Goddard.

    n research presented this week at AGU, she took a look 50 years back. Using temperature, sea level and other physical properties of the ocean, she generated a history of phytoplankton extent in the tropical Pacific Ocean, between 1958 and 2008. Looking over those five decades, she found that phytoplankton extent varied between years and decades. Most notably, during El Niño years, water currents and temperatures prevented phytoplankton communities from reaching as far west in the Pacific as they typically do.

    Digging further into the data, she found that where the El Niño was centered has an impact on phytoplankton. When the warmer waters of El Niño are centered over the Eastern Pacific, it suppresses nutrients across the basin, and therefore depresses phytoplankton growth more so than a central Pacific El Niño.

    “For the first time, we have a basin-wide view of the impact on biology of interannual and decadal forcing by many El Niño events over 50 years,” Uz said.

    As ocean temperatures impact processes across the Earth system, from climate to biodiversity, Tyler will continue to improve this novel magnetic remote sensing technique, to improve our future understanding of the planet.

    NASA collects data from space, air, land and sea to increase our understanding of our home planet, improve lives and safeguard our future. NASA develops new ways to observe and study Earth’s interconnected natural systems with long-term data records. The agency freely shares this unique knowledge and works with institutions around the world to gain new insights into how our planet is changing.

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  • richardmitnick 1:08 pm on September 20, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: $10 million Benioff Ocean Initiative, , Crowdsourcing Sea Change, Ocean studies,   

    From UCSB: “Crowdsourcing Sea Change” 

    UC Santa Barbara Name bloc
    UC Santa Barbara

    September 15, 2016
    Shelly Leachman

    With a $10 million gift from Marc and Lynne Benioff, UC Santa Barbara establishes the Benioff Ocean Initiative to study and solve ocean issues.

    The Benioff Ocean Initiative based at and led by UC Santa Barbara aims to research the root causes of pervasive ocean issues and use science to solve them.
    Photo Credit: Jim Maragos

    Marc and Lynne Benioff have gifted UC Santa Barbara with more than $10 million to establish the Benioff Ocean Initiative, which will be directed by Douglas McCauley.
    Photo Credit: Ron McPeak

    Maybe it’s all the plastic you see on the beach where you take your kids. Or that news story you read about shark-finning and can’t quite get it out of your mind. Are you frustrated trying to identify sustainable options on the menu at your favorite seafood restaurant?

    These are common concerns, and they all lead back to one place: the ocean. And with climate change acidifying and heating up the seas, global fisheries being overharvested and more than 5 trillion pieces of plastic working their way into marine food webs, they’re the tip of a massive threat to our oceans.

    The Benioff Ocean Initiative, a bold new endeavor led by the University of California Santa Barbara, aims to research the root causes of these pervasive ocean problems and use science to solve them, supported by funding from Marc and Lynne Benioff.

    Marc Benioff is the co-founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Salesforce, one of the world’s leading software companies, and a leader in changing global attitudes about the social responsibility of businesses. Lynne Benioff is on the board of directors of Hampton Creek, the board of overseers of the University of California San Francisco Foundation, the board of directors of UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland and the board of directors of Common Sense Media. In 2015, Lynne Benioff was appointed to the board of directors of the Presidio Trust by President Obama. Known for their extensive philanthropic support of children’s health and education, the couple has gifted UCSB more than $10 million to establish the Benioff Ocean Initiative.

    ‘A Game-Changing Undertaking’

    Cast as an experimental new model for university-driven change, the innovative effort will bring senior ocean scientists together with students to develop science-based solutions that will address problems plaguing the oceans. In an effort to link together the strength of university-powered research with the creativity of global ocean communities, this new initiative will use a crowdsourcing campaign to collect ideas on ocean issues submitted from anyone, anywhere in the world. These ideas will set the agenda for the initiative.

    “We cannot stand by and watch our oceans become increasingly sickened and fisheries decimated,” said Marc Benioff. “Just as we have research hospitals seeking cures for devastating illnesses, we need a hospital to heal our oceans. We can bring the brightest minds in marine science and our communities together and empower them to bring our oceans back to health.”

    “On behalf of UC Santa Barbara, I wish to express our deep appreciation for the truly inspiring and generous commitment by Marc and Lynne Benioff,” said Chancellor Henry T. Yang. “With this transformative gift, we are proud to establish the Benioff Ocean Initiative, which will enhance the ability of researchers and community stakeholders to address current problems in ocean health through applied environmental science.

    “Building the capacity of the university, including educating our students — future environmental leaders — to investigate and address these challenges in innovative and demonstrable ways is a vital step to strengthening sustainable environmental practices worldwide,” Yang added. “Through their gift, the Benioffs’ visionary leadership sets the stage for tremendous beneficial change.”

    “This is a game-changing undertaking that will contribute invaluable research and solutions to ocean issues that will affect the world’s food supply for countless generations,” said UC President Janet Napolitano, who launched the Global Food Initiative to marshal the expertise of researchers across the UC system. “It’s significant, too, that The Benioff Ocean Initiative will bring students together with scientists and collect ideas from people throughout the world.”

    ‘A Hospital for the Oceans’

    Headquartered at UCSB’s Marine Science Institute, an internationally recognized center of excellence for interdisciplinary oceans research, the Benioff Ocean Initiative is being directed by noted marine biologist Douglas McCauley, but will be run as a collaboration among ocean scientists worldwide, as well as students. Together they’ll highlight the most pressing threats to ocean health through research, and then use what they learn to address these illnesses in the ocean.

    “The Benioff Ocean Initiative will be a first of its kind ‘hospital for the oceans,’ ” McCauley said. “A university hospital that studied illness without treating illness wouldn’t have a lot of value. Likewise, it is no longer tenable to operate marine research institutes that study ocean problems without using this science to fix these same issues.” The Benioff Ocean Initiative, McCauley says, will be a collective of “sharp minds that are not afraid to get their hands dirty making ocean change happen.”

    “This initiative is a bold statement by UC Santa Barbara to the world that we must redefine possibilities for creating change in academia,” he continued. “Universities must do more than studiously write up the obituary for the oceans. The Benioff Ocean Initiative is an experiment that will make universities themselves epicenters for change. In the case of the oceans, this is better late than never. This re-visioning of the responsibility of the university emulates the Benioffs’ progressive stance around corporations and business leaders taking on social and environmental

    Ideation. Research. The fix. That’s the three-step process at the heart of Benioff Ocean Initiative, which begins by inviting the global public to identify ocean issues that need solving by submitting ideas online. From each round of crowdsourcing one top idea will be selected by the initiative’s team of marine scientists, who will then, McCauley said, kick start the process of “doing what science does best — study the heck out of the problem.”

    The initiative will assemble and fund a team of global experts to intensely research a solution to selected problems. During a subsequent research summit at UCSB, scientists on the team will share what they’ve learned and collaboratively design a best fix for the problem.

    Then the best part: bringing that fix to life.

    Million-Dollar Ideas

    Benioff Ocean Initiative staff and the ocean scientists behind each solution will “work together to build the device, write the code or invent the tech needed to solve the ocean problem,” McCauley said. “A million dollars will be invested in putting each fix into place. And every fix that comes out of the Benioff Ocean Initiative will be designed so that these successes can be replicated as widely as possible.”

    In a world where the oceans provide millions of jobs and yield trillions of dollars in goods and services each year, and where 1.4 billion people frequently rely on fish as a food source, that replication will be key, according to McCauley.

    “Our fate is inextricably linked to the fate of the oceans,” he said. “This is becoming as much or more about saving ourselves than it is about saving the whales. This is about putting healthy food on our table, oxygen in our air, keeping pollution out of the bodies of ocean animals and off our dinner plates. It’s about protecting the vibrancy of our economies and giving our kids enough nature to marvel at.”

    And it absolutely can be done, McCauley assured, characterizing the oceans as “wonderfully resilient” places where life is “much healthier and still much wilder than life on land.”

    “There have been far fewer extinctions in the oceans, which means the building blocks of ocean life are almost all still swimming around somewhere out there,” he said. “With some strategic investment of intellect, resources and creativity, we can fix many of the problems facing the oceans and threatening our own well-being before they become irreversible.”

    Setting Sail

    Thanks to just such an investment by Marc and Lynne Benioff, that’s precisely what the ambitious Benioff Ocean Initiative intends to do.

    “I am honored and delighted that Marc and Lynne Benioff have decided to establish the Benioff Ocean Initiative here at UC Santa Barbara,” said Pierre Wiltzius, the Susan & Bruce Worster Dean of Science and executive dean of the College of Letters and Science at UCSB. “Their passion for creating a better world through meaningful, deliberate change is inspirational, and their desire to bring students together with top researchers is directly aligned with the goals of this university.

    “I can’t think of a better person to lead this new model for ocean change than Douglas McCauley,” Wiltzius added. “He and his team are widely cited as experts in fragile marine ecosystems and are at the forefront of developing new ideas for preserving our oceans. I speak for my entire division when I say that we enthusiastically look forward to the innovations that will come from this initiative.”

    Urging anyone who is interested to visit the just-unveiled Benioff Ocean Initiative website (www.boi.ucsb.edu) to submit an idea for ocean change, McCauley said, “We can’t wait to set sail on this important journey together.”

    See the full article here .

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    The University of California, Santa Barbara (commonly referred to as UC Santa Barbara or UCSB) is a public research university and one of the 10 general campuses of the University of California system. Founded in 1891 as an independent teachers’ college, UCSB joined the University of California system in 1944 and is the third-oldest general-education campus in the system. The university is a comprehensive doctoral university and is organized into five colleges offering 87 undergraduate degrees and 55 graduate degrees. In 2012, UCSB was ranked 41st among “National Universities” and 10th among public universities by U.S. News & World Report. UCSB houses twelve national research centers, including the renowned Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics.

  • richardmitnick 9:49 pm on September 12, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Ocean studies,   

    From Rutgers: “Oscar Schofield, Scott Glenn and the Marine Team: A New World Underwater” 

    Rutgers University
    Rutgers University

    September 12, 2016
    Ken Branson

    The Spanish vessel M/V Investigador approaches the Rutgers submersible robot glider Scarlet Knight off the coast of Spain in December 2009 after the glider completed its precedent-setting, 221-day underwater flight across the Atlantic Ocean. Photo: Rutgers University/Dan Crowell

    Nearly 20 years ago, Josh Kohut, a rising college senior, walked onto the ground floor of a revolution starting at Rutgers – the art and science of studying the world’s oceans, all at the same time.

    Kohut got a summer job working for Scott Glenn, a marine scientist who was just starting to use a high-frequency radar designed to hug the surface of the ocean and “see” over the horizon.

    It was one of several new technologies Glenn and his colleagues at Rutgers would go on to adopt and share with the world over the next two decades, forever changing the field of oceanography and the way scientists understand weather, marine life, and other related areas.

    “The development of ocean observing was championed here,” said Kohut, now an associate professor of marine science at Rutgers. “The benefits have been in understanding storms, water quality, fisheries and search and rescue.”

    For decades, oceanographers had gathered data by observing a spot in the ocean over a period of time with buoys or a tide gauges, or by surveying a swath of ocean by pulling sensors behind a ship.

    “The ocean is under-sampled, to put it mildly,” said Glenn, professor of marine and coastal sciences and co-founder of the Rutgers University Center for Ocean Observing Leadership (RU-COOL). “We needed spatial data – not just a time series at a point or a shipboard sample that was a one-off. Nobody could afford 1,000 moorings or 1,000 ships.”

    Glenn and his team first set out to work with satellite imagery, then on the high-frequency radar, called CODAR (Coastal Ocean Dynamics Application Radar). Then they started working with satellite imagery, sensors on drifters and buoys, and sensors on robot gliders.

    Their work made it possible – and practical – to study different points in the ocean at once. They also decided to make it public, posting the data online for others to use for their own work.

    “(Other universities) wanted to use (CODAR) data for research papers, but they wouldn’t put it up on their websites for others to look at,” said Donald Barrick, CODAR’s inventor and CEO of CODAR Ocean Sensors. “Rutgers has always been very open about this, not proprietary. They were the beginning in the United States of using our radars for societal applications, not just research.”

    The work has helped rescuers improve their search-and-rescue strategies, helped environmental agencies monitor water quality more precisely, helped fisheries officials manage fisheries better, and meteorologists better understand the underwater dynamics of hurricanes, thanks to robot gliders deployed in front of Hurricane Irene in 2011.

    “Before, we could accurately predict a hurricane’s direction but not the intensity of its landfall, said Oscar Schofield, a professor who co-founded RU-COOL. “Now, we know how to do that, which has huge implications for emergency preparedness, for land-use planning, and lots of other activities.”

    Now, gliders fly underwater in all the world’s ocean basins and CODARs line both coasts in the United States and are deployed in several other countries. Going forward, RU-COOL – which now stands for Rutgers University Center for Ocean-Observing Leadership – is at the heart of the effort to manage and understand all that data.

    In June, the National Science Foundation awarded $11.8 million to Rutgers to design, build and operate the data system for the Ocean Observatories Initiative, which collects and shares data from more than 800 sophisticated instruments deployed in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The data are then transmitted to labs ashore by submarine cable or satellite. The Rutgers team includes RU-COOL and the Rutgers Discovery Informatics Institute. The goal: to provide a holistic view of all the world’s oceans.

    “The view of the world before was that we’re data-limited, and if we just had the data, the ocean would make sense to us,” said Matt Oliver, professor of marine science at the University of Delaware who did his graduate work in RU-COOL. “Now, there is so much data going in, we’ve gone from being blind to staring into the sun, and we’re still blind.”

    Like Oliver, hundreds of undergraduates and graduate students have started their careers at RU-COOL to get hands-on experience. In 2009, when the lab sent a robot glider across the ocean for the first time, the professors often knew no more than their students, and weren’t afraid to admit it.

    “There were times when (Glenn) just gave us the keys and told us to drive,” student Shannon Harrison told Rutgers Today in 2011.

    The Rutgers scientists say they have been deliberate in choosing top students in hopes of identifying others from Rutgers who will go on to do revolutionary work.

    “We need a new generation of oceanographers,” Glenn said. “That’s why we developed our undergraduates as researchers. They’re still explorers. They’re still trying out new things.”

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  • richardmitnick 10:42 am on September 7, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Ocean studies   

    From MIT: “Study finds increased ocean acidification due to human activities” 

    MIT News
    MIT News
    MIT Widget

    September 7, 2016
    Jennifer Chu | MIT News Office

    “The ocean has been the only true sink for anthropogenic emissions since the industrial revolution,” says MIT graduate student Sophie Chu, pictured here. “Right now, it stores about 1/4 to 1/3 of the anthropogenic emissions from the atmosphere. We’re expecting at some point the storage will slow down.” Photo: Zhaohui Aleck Wang/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

    Oceanographers from MIT and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution report that the northeast Pacific Ocean has absorbed an increasing amount of anthropogenic carbon dioxide over the last decade, at a rate that mirrors the increase of carbon dioxide emissions pumped into the atmosphere.

    The scientists, led by graduate student Sophie Chu, in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences, found that most of the anthropogenic carbon (carbon arising from human activity) in the northeast Pacific has lingered in the upper layers, changing the chemistry of the ocean as a result. In the past 10 years, the region’s average pH has dropped by 0.002 pH units per year, leading to more acidic waters. The increased uptake in carbon dioxide has also decreased the availability of aragonite — an essential mineral for many marine species’ shells.

    Overall, the researchers found that the northeast Pacific has a similar capacity to store carbon, compared to the rest of the Pacific. However, this carbon capacity is significantly lower than at similar latitudes in the Atlantic.

    “The ocean has been the only true sink for anthropogenic emissions since the industrial revolution,” Chu says. “Right now, it stores about 1/4 to 1/3 of the anthropogenic emissions from the atmosphere. We’re expecting at some point the storage will slow down. When it does, more carbon dioxide will stay in the atmosphere, which means more warming. So it’s really important that we continue to monitor this.”

    Chu and her colleagues have published their results in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans.

    Tipping the scales

    The northeast Pacific, consisting of waters that flow from Alaska’s Aleutian Islands to the tip of southern California, is considered somewhat of a climate canary — sensitive to changes in ocean chemistry, and carbon dioxide in particular. The region sits at the end of the world’s ocean circulation system, where it has collected some of the oldest waters on Earth and accumulated with them a large amount of dissolved inorganic carbon, which is naturally occurring carbon that has been respired by marine organisms over thousands of years.

    “This puts the Pacific at this already heightened state of high carbon and low pH,” Chu says.

    Add enough atmospheric carbon dioxide into the mix, and the scales could tip toward an increasingly acidic ocean, which could have an effect first in sea snails called pteropods, which depend on aragonite (a form of calcium carbonate) to make their protective shells. More acidic waters can make carbonate less available to pteropods.

    “These species are really sensitive to ocean acidification,” Chu says. “It’s harder for them to get enough carbonate to build their shells, and they end up with weaker shells, and have reduced growth rates.”

    Protecting shells

    Chu and her colleagues originally set out to study the effects of ocean acidification on pteropods, rather than the ocean’s capacity to store carbon. In 2012, the team embarked on a scientific cruise to the northeast Pacific, where they followed the same route as a similar cruise in 2001. During the month-long journey, the scientists collected samples of pteropods, as well as seawater, which they measured for temperature, salinity, and pH.

    Upon their return, Chu realized that the data they collected could also be used to gauge changes in the ocean’s anthropogenic carbon storage. Ordinarily, it’s extremely difficult to tease out anthropogenic carbon in the ocean from carbon that naturally arises from breathing marine organisms. Both types of carbon are classified as dissolved inorganic carbon, and anthropogenic carbon in the ocean is miniscule compared to the vast amount of carbon that has accumulated naturally over millions of years.

    To isolate anthropogenic carbon in the ocean and observe how it has changed through time, Chu used a modeling technique known as extended multiple linear regression — a statistical method that models the relationships between given variables, based on observed data. The data she collected came from both the 2012 cruise and the previous 2001 cruise in the same region.

    She ran a model for each year, plugging in water temperature, salinity, apparent oxygen utilization, and silicate. The models then estimated the natural variability in dissolved inorganic carbon for each year. That is, the models calculated the amount of carbon that should vary from 2001 to 2012, only based on natural processes such as organic respiration. Chu then subtracted the 2001 estimate from the 2012 estimate — a difference that accounts for sources of carbon that are not naturally occurring, and are instead anthropogenic.

    Sinking carbon

    The researchers found that since 2001, the northeast Pacific has stored 11 micromoles per kilogram of anthropogenic carbon, which is comparable to the rate at which carbon dioxide has been emitted into the atmosphere. Most of this carbon is stored in surface waters. In the northern part of the region in particular, anthropogenic carbon tends to linger in shallower waters, within the upper 300 meters of the ocean. The southern region of the northeast Pacific stores carbon a bit deeper, within the top 600 meters.

    Chu says this shallow storage is likely due to a subpolar gyre, or rotating current, that pushes water up from the deep, preventing surface waters from sinking. In contrast, others have observed that similar latitudes in the Atlantic have stored carbon much deeper, due to evaporation and mixing, leading to increased salinity and density, which causes carbon to sink.

    The team calculated that the increase in anthropogenic carbon in the upper ocean caused a decrease in the region’s average pH, making the ocean more acidic as a result. This acidification also had an effect on the region’s aragonite, decreasing its saturation state over the last decade.

    Richard Feely, a senior scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, says that the group’s results show that this particular part of the ocean is “highly sensitive to ocean acidification.”

    “Our own work with pteropods, and that of others, indicate that some marine organisms are already being impacted by ocean acidification processes in this region,” says Feely, who did not contribute to the study. “Laboratory studies indicate that many species of corals, shellfish, and some fish species will be impacted in the near future. As this study, and others, have shown, the region will soon become undersaturated with respect to aragonite later this century.”

    While the total amount of anthropogenic carbon appears to be increasing with each year, Chu says the rate at which the northeast Pacific has been storing carbon has remained relatively the same since 2001. That means that the region could still have a good amount of “room” to store carbon, at least for the foreseeable future. But already, her team and others are seeing in the acidification trends the ocean’s negative response to the current rate of carbon storage.

    “It would take hundreds of thousands of years for the ocean to absorb the majority of CO2 that humans have released into the atmosphere,” Chu says. “But at the rate we’re going, it’s just way faster than anything can keep up with.”

    This research was supported in part by the National Science Foundation Ocean Acidification Program, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program.

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  • richardmitnick 6:03 am on September 6, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Ocean studies   

    From New Scientist: “Ocean warming is already spreading diseases and killing corals” 


    New Scientist

    5 September 2016
    No writer credit found

    Georgette Douwma/Getty

    The warming of the world’s oceans is already spreading dangerous diseases and affecting fish stocks and crop yields, according to a report.

    Conservationists warned the world is “completely unprepared” for the impacts of warming oceans on wildlife, natural systems and humans, some of which are already being felt.

    Even with action to significantly reduce the greenhouse gas emissions which are causing ocean warming, there will still be a high risk of impacts, according to the report launched by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

    Completely unprepared

    “Ocean warming is one of this generation’s greatest hidden challenges – and one for which we are completely unprepared,” said IUCN director general Inger Andersen.

    “The only way to preserve the rich diversity of marine life, and to safeguard the protection and resources the ocean provides us with, is to cut greenhouse gas emissions rapidly and substantially.”

    As part of the report, findings from Camille Parmesan and Martin Attrill of the University of Plymouth, in the UK, show that marine-related tropical diseases and harmful algal blooms are spreading to colder regions for the first time.

    Outbreaks of Vibrio vulnificus, a relation of the bacteria causing cholera and which causes death in between 30 and 48 per cent of cases, have been newly diagnosed some 1,600 kilometres further north than previously recorded.

    The disease has previously been a problem in warm waters such as the Gulf of Mexico where mostly it has been contracted by eating infected oysters, but cases have recently occurred in the Baltic and Alaska, the report warns.

    Affected fish

    Warming sea surface temperatures in fishing grounds can also cause toxins from algal blooms to enter the food chain, including ciguatera which can cause severe and sometimes lethal gastric and neurological damage – though very hot seas may prevent spread.

    Parmesan warned new healthcare strategies will be needed to deal with and treat tropical pathogens where historically they have not been needed.

    The report, by 80 scientists from 12 countries also found that groups of species such as jellyfish, turtles, seabirds and plankton are being driven up to 10 degrees north by warming oceans, affecting the breeding success of marine mammals.

    Fish are moving to cooler waters and warming is damaging habitats, affecting fish stocks and potentially leading to smaller catches in tropical regions, the report said.

    In East Africa and the West Indian Ocean, warming seas have killed parts of the coral reefs fish depend on, reducing populations already hit by overfishing and destructive techniques such as dynamite fishing.

    In South East Asia harvests from marine fisheries are expected to fall by between 10 and 30 per cent compared to the period 1970 and 2000, if greenhouse gas emissions carry on at current levels.

    Weather effects

    Warming oceans are also affecting weather patterns, with the number of severe hurricanes rising by around 25-30 per cent with each degree centigrade of warming.

    And the changes to the world’s seas are leading to more rainfall in some areas, including those with monsoons, and less rain in sub-tropical areas, which is set to affect crop yields in important regions such as North America and India, it said.

    “Most of the heat from human-induced warming since the 1970s — a staggering 93 per cent — has been absorbed by the ocean, which acts as a buffer against climate change, but this comes at a price,” said IUCN’s Dan Laffoley, one of the lead authors of the report.

    The report calls for rapid and substantial cuts to greenhouse gases, expansion of marine protected areas, legal protection of the high seas, as well as recognition of the severity of the problem and efforts to fill in gaps in scientific knowledge.

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