Taxonomy term

oceanography

1883 sea rescue informs new model of wind-wave interactions

Despite improvements in oceanographic observation, knowledge gaps remain about the interactions between ocean waves and wind blowing over the water’s surface. This is in part due to the difficulty of observing the ocean in high seas and windy conditions. In a new study in Geophysical Research Letters, however, researchers have used a historical record of a treacherous 1883 at-sea rescue — aided by the wave-calming effects of a fish-oil slick — to develop a model of how wind and water interact to form different sizes and types of waves.

29 May 2017

Are North Atlantic storm tracks shifting south?

As the Arctic warms, decreasing temperature differences between the Arctic and the lower latitudes may push North Atlantic storm systems south. The factors that influence storm tracks are complicated, however, and the accuracy of models predicting future storm tracks is uncertain. The results of a new study, in which researchers looked at changes in Atlantic storm tracks over the past 4,000 years, could improve the accuracy of predictive models and help Europe prepare for shifting storm patterns.

19 May 2017

Sea-surface temperatures during last interglacial similar to modern day

During the last interglacial period, between 129,000 and 116,000 years ago, global sea levels were 6 to 9 meters higher than at present. Scientists have long wondered how global atmospheric and ocean temperatures then compared to modern times, but efforts to reconstruct such temperatures have often fallen short. In a new study, researchers who compiled past records of sea-surface temperatures (SSTs) have revealed that SSTs during the last interglacial were similar to modern day temperatures. But, the similarity doesn’t necessarily predict a future surge in sea levels.

10 May 2017

Six new deep-sea species discovered

About 2,000 kilometers southeast of Madagascar and 2.8 kilometers below the surface of the Indian Ocean, scientists have discovered six never-before-seen animal species living around deep-sea hydrothermal vents. The creatures were spotted by a remotely operated vehicle during an expedition in 2011 to a site called Longqi, or “Dragon’s Breath,” around which stand mineralized vent chimneys — some more than two stories tall — that are rich in copper and gold. Genetic testing confirmed the novelty of the animals, which include new species of polychaete worms and limpets as well as a previously unknown species of hairy-chested “Hoff” crab, named for actor David Hasselhoff.

11 Apr 2017

El Niño gets animated

In the winter of 1997 and 1998, a powerful El Niño pattern in the Pacific Ocean caused billions of dollars in damage from flooding and extreme weather worldwide. Now, a new animation of the event is highlighting the complex feedbacks that conspired to create such a devastating climate cycle.

24 Mar 2017

Earth's magnetic field illuminates ocean temperatures

As Earth warms, the atmosphere isn’t the only place where temperatures are rising — the oceans are absorbing most of the excess heat, but precisely how much is unclear. Using recently launched satellites that can measure subtle fluctuations in Earth’s magnetic field, researchers are devising a method that may help refine ocean temperature measurements and clarify how much heat the oceans are storing.

16 Mar 2017

Broadening ocean current could carry less heat poleward with climate change

Some ocean currents, like the Agulhas Current in the southwestern Indian Ocean, act like giant air conditioners, moderating Earth’s climate by shuttling heat from the equator toward the poles. The Agulhas is one of the largest and fastest currents in the world: Flowing southwest along the east coast of Africa, it stretches almost 1,500 kilometers and transports about 70 million cubic meters of water every second toward the South Pole at peak speeds upward of 7 kilometers per hour.

21 Feb 2017

Seafloor topography drives Earth's great conveyor belt

In the Southern Ocean, the world’s largest current in terms of volume transport — the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) — encircles Antarctica and connects the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific ocean basins, as it flows from west to east. The ACC influences ocean circulation and global climate, as it rises from the deep to interact with the atmosphere. In a new study, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, researchers have directly measured how seafloor topography affects the current’s structure — something that had only been theorized previously.

20 Dec 2016

Small-scale factors influence mantle flow under the seafloor

In December 2011, scientists and technicians aboard the research vessel Marcus G. Langseth dropped several ocean-bottom seismometers into the deep Pacific more than 1,900 kilometers southeast of Hawaii to measure seismic activity and electrical conductivity to a depth of about 300 kilometers below the seafloor. Now, these measurements are providing new insights into how the mantle flows and deforms below the rigid tectonic plates that make up Earth’s surface.

22 Nov 2016

Persistent Pacific warmth overshadows El Niño

The El Niño of 2015–2016, dubbed a “super El Niño,” was officially declared over in May, bringing to a close one of the strongest El Niño events on record. Scientists are now unraveling the details of this climate phenomenon, and discovering how it interacted with other unusual ocean conditions to impact surface and subsurface ocean conditions within the California Current System (CCS) — one of the world’s major coastal upwelling zones and a region of great biologic productivity.

06 Nov 2016

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