Taxonomy term

oceanography

Down to Earth With marine geoscientist Harold Tobin

As a boy growing up on the East Coast, Harold Tobin loved being outdoors but was not all that excited by geology or the region’s ancient rocks. But the catastrophic eruption of Washington state’s Mount St. Helens in 1980, when Tobin was 15, and the notion that tectonic plates must be moving beneath the Pacific Northwest, captured his imagination. A few years later, while a student at Yale University, he volunteered as a summer intern at Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. That experience, along with his undergraduate curriculum, convinced Tobin to become a geologist.

02 Mar 2018

Down to Earth With: Deep-sea biologist Stace Beaulieu

People often find their way to the geosciences after a college class sparks their interest. But not Stace Beaulieu, a senior research specialist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in Woods Hole, Mass. — she knew what she wanted to do at age 6. Beaulieu grew up in Florida and spent her childhood snorkeling and reading science magazines with pictures of deep-sea creatures that tantalized her imagination and piqued her curiosity. “I had a one-track mind pretty much from elementary school through grad school — I never changed my mind. I was so excited about learning about what was deeper. I still am today.”

02 Nov 2017

How the Arctic became salty

The Arctic Ocean hasn’t always been as salty as other oceans. In the Eocene, between 56 million and 34 million years ago, the water surrounding the North Pole — freshened by melt from sea ice and river runoff — was cut off from the Atlantic and Pacific oceans by land bridges. At some point, plate tectonic processes opened the North Atlantic, submerging the land bridges and allowing saltwater to pour into the Arctic, but the timing and details of these events are largely unknown. New research suggests a tipping point may have been reached as one particular land bridge submerged far enough below the ocean surface.

25 Sep 2017

Bottom dropping out of coral reefs

Coral reefs provide habitat for 25 percent of all marine life, support fishing and tourism economies, and protect shorelines from surging waves and storms. But since the 1970s, coral populations have been waning because of warming waters, coastal development and pollution. Recently, scientists studying several beleaguered reef systems have discovered an unexpected consequence of their decline — the seafloor around the reefs is eroding, leaving coastal communities more vulnerable to high winds and waves.

17 Jul 2017

The mackerel year: Tambora changed how New England fished

The 1815 eruption of Indonesia’s Tambora Volcano led to a 1- to 1.5-degree-Celsius drop in the average global temperature, prompting 1816 to be called the “year without a summer.” New research analyzes weather data and historical records from New England to explain why, in the northeast U.S., 1816 was also called the “mackerel year.” As eruption-induced extreme weather triggered food scarcity in some areas, including a reduction in alewife numbers along the U.S. Atlantic coast, fishermen in the Gulf of Maine turned to mackerel fisheries farther offshore that had been neglected while more easily fished coastal and freshwater species were available.

06 Jun 2017

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

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