Oceans

ocean

Blogging on EARTH: First dispatches from EGU

EARTH’s Carolyn Gramling is taking in the European Geophysical Union meeting this week in Vienna, Austria. Here are some of the sessions that have caught her interest so far.

05 Apr 2011

Benchmarks: January 23, 1960: Humans reach the deepest point on Earth

More than 9,000 meters underwater, a window buckles, sending a spider web of cracks across the glass. The entire submersible shakes, but no water rushes into the Trieste. Out of vocal contact with the main ship on the surface above them, Swiss oceanographer and engineer Jacques Piccard and U.S. Navy Lt. Don Walsh decide to continue their descent despite the new danger. After all, at more than nine kilometers below the sea surface, the explorers were too close to their goal to turn around. They were only 2,000 meters away from the deepest spot on Earth: Challenger Deep. On Jan. 23, 1960, they reached that fabled point 10,916 meters below the surface of the Pacific Ocean.
 
03 Jan 2011

Of sounds and cetaceans: Quieting a noisy underwater world

Marine mammals live in a world of sound. In the open ocean, whales and dolphins depend on sound waves, using echolocation to navigate, find food, attract mates and communicate. But their clicks and calls are not the only noises underwater: Oil and gas exploration, seafloor mapping, and ship and submarine navigation have increased dramatically over the past few decades, making the world’s oceans noisier than ever.

18 Mar 2010

Shell-shocked: How different creatures deal with an acidifying ocean

To survive in the ocean, soft-bodied organisms must possess one of five traits: big teeth, toxic flesh, invisibility, quickness or a hard shell. Most marine organisms that employ the latter, called calcifiers, build their hard shells from the mineral calcium carbonate. However, increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are making the oceans more acidic — which, in turn, is reducing the concentration of carbonate ions dissolved in seawater that organisms use to build their protective shells and skeletons.

10 Mar 2010

Sea sprawl: Into the blue frontier of ocean development

Picture it: Dozens of kilometers off the coast of Texas, a giant polygon-shaped cage constructed of steel ribs and mesh netting floats 30 or so meters beneath the waves. The cage, moored to the seafloor, is filled with tens of thousands of teeming, silvery fish. Several kilometers away, offshore wind turbines sprout from the sea surface in a curving line, their spindly white arms churning the atmosphere.

01 Mar 2010

Voyage to the plastic vortex

Out in the middle of the northern Pacific Ocean, a giant floating mess of plastic debris is drifting and bobbing among the waves. Scientists call this expanse of litter, which stretches for hundreds of kilometers across open sea, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. But before last summer, there was little information about how large the patch really is, what types of debris are out there and what kind of impact it is having on ocean life.

03 Sep 2009

Natural dust may be harmful to ocean organisms

Although human-made aerosols sometimes are toxic, natural aerosols from deserts and volcanoes are important contributors to ocean fertilization. Now, new research suggests that natural aerosols have their downside too — and the impact of natural aerosols on ocean organisms could influence predictions of future climate change.

10 Mar 2009

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