Taxonomy term


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

Frosted forams foil radiocarbon dating

Climate studies often rely on radiocarbon dating of tiny shells in seafloor sediments to pinpoint the timing of when warming or cooling events began and ended. But a new study indicates that chemical reactions that take place on the seafloor may affect the accuracy of such radiocarbon dates, with potential implications for the dates published by past studies

01 Nov 2016

Tiny ocean bacteria could play big role in climate

In the 1990s, researchers identified the most abundant group of organisms in the ocean as Pelagibacterales, a class of free-living bacteria that live in surface waters as a microscopic but major part of the phytoplankton community. Now, a new study suggests that Pelagibacterales could play an important role in the global climate cycle by producing dimethylsulfide (DMS), an organosulfur compound that stimulates cloud formation when it gets into the atmosphere.

05 Sep 2016

Seeing the seafloor in high definition: Modern mapping offers increasing clarity on Earth's vast underwater landscape

Advancements in seafloor mapping technology have allowed us to see through the water with increasing coverage and resolution. But only a tiny fraction of the seafloor has ben mapped in high resolution, leaving vast expanses of the deep ocean virtually uncharted. 

31 May 2016

Sailors right about sneaky rogue waves

Sailors are notorious for telling tall tales, including legends about monstrous “rogue waves” that appear at sea without warning. Oceanographers have traditionally dismissed such stories because they thought that unusually large waves would be preceded by series of waves of increasing size.

29 Mar 2016

Oceanographers solve mysterious beach explosion

Late on the morning of Saturday, July 11, 2015, Kathleen Danise, a 60-year-old nurse and grandmother from Waterbury, Conn., was enjoying a sunny day at Salty Brine State Beach on the shores of Block Island Sound in Narragansett, R.I., when an explosion knocked her from her beach chair. She landed a few meters away near a rock jetty, unconscious and suffering a concussion, two fractured ribs and bruising for which she was hospitalized overnight.
29 Dec 2015

Ocean oxygen levels control seafloor carbon burial

Residual organic carbon from dead marine phytoplankton and other oceanic life can follow two pathways: It can be deeply buried in seafloor sediments or it can be oxidized, either in the water column or in shallow sediment layers. The balance between these two processes and the extent of organic carbon burial over time are crucial in the global carbon cycle, but a complete understanding of the factors and rates controlling organic carbon burial versus oxidation in the oceans has been lacking. In a recent study in Geology, scientists improved on an approach to quantify organic carbon oxidation and provided a glimpse of marine organic carbon burial in the Precambrian, when the oceans were anoxic and Earth’s atmosphere was in the early stages of oxygenation.
05 Dec 2015