Scientists observe what might happen if ocean circulation slows

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Map of Europe showing the differences in temperature between 11–18 December 2009 and the 2000–2008 average.

If you are sat in a cold bath and turn on the hot tap, what happens? The water close to your feet becomes unbearably hot and the water near the top half of your body doesn’t noticeably change temperature. Fundamentally, the same process happens in the oceans. The sea nearest to the equator heats up as it receives the highest amount of energy from the sun; the sea nearest to the poles generally loses heat. In the bath, you slosh the water about as it enters the tub to distribute the heat more evenly. In the oceans, currents perform the same job, helping to move heat from the equator to the poles and make higher latitudes more habitable. If, for some reason, the currents transporting heat to higher latitudes slowed, the effect would be similar to you not mixing your bath water. Your feet (the equator and tropics) would become hotter, and your body (the subtropics and poles) would become colder. This is exactly what scientists think they observed in 2009/2010 in the North Atlantic, and they think this may explain some of the freak weather that was observed during that period.

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UK research council scores own goal on climate change

Below is an excerpt from the Natural Environment Research Council’s (NERC’s) regarding their current strategic goals (i.e. what they are actually meant to be using tax-payer money for):

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Phytoplankton waiting game perhaps key to their success in ocean deserts

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File:Survival Technique.JPGIn survival situations people often talk about the rule of three. It is said that humans can only survive for 3 minutes without air, 3 hours without heat, 3 days without water and 3 weeks without food. Not wanting to be left out, it seems that some phytoplankton also obey a rule of 3 according to a new study: they can survive for 3 weeks without key nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus.

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Balloon launched from seaside miraculously finds diatoms in space

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space diatom 3A group of scientists have found a single fragment of a diatom in the lower stratosphere (for more info on diatoms, click here) and have jumped to the only obvious conclusion available: that it must have come from space. Published in The* Journal of Cosmology*, the authors describe using an ultra high-tech device, described as “a closeable draw carried by a balloon”, the scientists launched the device from Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, UK. Now, I’m no astrobiologist, but this would seem to violate the first rule of looking for space plankton: AVOID LAUNCHING YOUR SAMPLING BALLOON BY THE SEA! Maybe I’m being overly harsh, I’m sure they accounted for these things. Let’s read the text below from their paper:

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Every academic to live on campus by 2020

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This satirical article on The Daily Mash made me smile today, and seemed to be begging to have a few words changed around in order to make it even more appropriate for academia. Enjoy:

Universities have revealed new measures to help you spend all your time doing work and publishing papers.

As well as radically extending university opening hours, universities will demolish your house and put your children in “permanent daycare” as part of plans to ensure all academics live on campus by 2020.

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‘Battery’ PhD students to increase UK university productivity by ‘up to 75%’

By Jeff Hawkes

New plans to rejuvenate working conditions for Ph.D. students in the UK were revealed today, receiving a poor reception. The plans are being introduced due to an explosion in PhD student recruitment over the past few decades.

Picture2“It used to be that having a degree was fantastic for ones employment opportunities, but over the years the UK has allowed the value of higher education to decrease and become gradually less relevant to a candidates eventual job.  Now go-getting youngsters who want to ‘get the edge’ on their rivals are having to earn an extremely specific research doctorate in order to apply for any job earning more than minimum wage”, said social analyst Frank Bosser.

“We’re expecting that over the coming years the average Joe will need some years of teaching experience at university level in order to leave higher education with any employment prospects whatsoever”.  It’s quite a normal ‘educational inflation’ effect when there aren’t enough jobs to go around and so people by default continue to get more qualifications.  The problem is that the universities stay the same physical size, so ‘something’s gotta give’” Continue reading

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The future of marine science in the UK: It’s all about the money money money…

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DEFRA report shows the massive pressure that is being put on UK marine science by commercial interests: from setting the research agenda, to running public services for profit, and the desire to dismantle public bodies such as CEFAS and the Met Office.

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Ocean Deserts: it’s a hard life in the tropics, but not if you’re small

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Subtropical gyres are an extreme environment that covers approximately 30 % of the planet’s surface

Think of an extreme environment where life survives in the ocean. What springs to mind? The mind boggling pressures and eerie quiet of the deep-sea perhaps? Maybe the icy environments at the poles? Possibly even an estuary, where organisms are flung from one salinity extreme to the other on a daily basis. There is another extreme environment though, one which few of you probably even considered, one that covers about 30% of the planet and is currently expanding under the influence of climate change: large swirling systems of rotating currents that occur in the centre of oceans known as subtropical gyres.  Continue reading

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Chalk talk: Coccolithophores

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If you read my previous post on the interesting article about coccolithophore species-specific growth responses to environmental change, you may have been left wanting to know more about coccolithophores in general.  I don’t blame you.  Coccolithophores are pretty awesome. Continue reading

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Using the past to predict the future of coccolithophores

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Some of the most progressive and interesting science happens when experts from different fields come together to tackle the same problem. Recently a group of plankton ecologists teamed up with some palaeontologists to assess how climate change impacts the growth of specific species of coccolithophores, both in modern times and during  a period of warming 56 million years ago. They showed that two species of coccolithophore responded very differently to this event. Continue reading

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