Tag Archives: Oceanography

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.

Continue reading Scientists observe what might happen if ocean circulation slows

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.

Continue reading Phytoplankton waiting game perhaps key to their success in ocean deserts

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.

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

Overly honest (marine science) methods

Dr Leigh (@Dr_Leigh) started a genius Twitter hashtag (#OverlyHonestMethods), allowing scientists to come forward and admit how they might really write those extremely dull method sections if journals gave them complete freedom to be extremely blunt. Here are Words in mOcean’s  own marine science suggestions that you may have been temped to include in your papers: Continue reading Overly honest (marine science) methods

A guide to iron fertilisation of the ocean

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Image 1: A satellite image of the supposed iron-induced phytoplankton bloom. It seems to attribute all elevated chlorophyll concentrations in the region to the experiment. Chlorophyll is naturally patchy in its distribution, so this image is less than useless (especially as they didn’t even provide satellite images from before the dump!).

It was revealed this week that Russ George, a controversial American Businessman (Deep-Sea News ran a good piece this week covering his chequered history), dumped around 100 tonnes of “iron-rich dirt-like material” off the west coast of Canada in July in order to “gather data targeting all the possible fears that have been raised” about ocean fertilization – an act that is in violation of two international moratoria designed to prevent material from being dumped in the ocean. Judging from the poor quality of news coverage on the issue, which tended to include the deceptive image shown above (Image 1), there are a lot of misconceptions about iron fertilisation of the ocean. Here is the official Words in mOcean idiot’s guide to make you instantly more knowledgeable on this subject. Continue reading A guide to iron fertilisation of the ocean

An Inconvenient Merger: Al Gore has his say on the NOC/BAS merger

There is a strong chance that the proposed merging of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) with the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) is going to harm the UK’s ability to conduct climate change research. There is also a suspicion amongst many that the NOCS/BAS merger ‘consultation’ is just for show, and that the decision has already been made to merge the two institutions. It is perhaps fitting then that veteran of phony ‘democratic’ processes, former democrat presidential candidate (and Vice-President) Al Gore, has decided to weigh in with his opinion on the matter: Continue reading An Inconvenient Merger: Al Gore has his say on the NOC/BAS merger

Up ship creek: More bad news for UK oceanography

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Based on a discussion that took place at Challenger 2012

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In an opening speech that, thankfully, did not contain one utterance of the hateful phrase ‘going forward’ (I was poised ready to count them), Professor Ed Hill (director of the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton) talked about future challenges for funding UK oceanography: this talk, from the outset, felt like it was going to be depressing! Continue reading Up ship creek: More bad news for UK oceanography

Challenger 2012 (Selected keynote lectures): Ken Buesseler (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution) – Controls on and variability in particle export and flux attenuation in the ocean’s twilight zone

The 15th Biennial Challenger Conference for Marine Science recently took place at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, on 3-6 September 2012. There were over 100 talks, 150 posters, a contentious debate on wind power, and a talk on how the UK can maintain its current research infrastructure. Over the next week or so Words in mOcean will be bringing you a recap of the best of the action, starting with four of the keynote lectures. Today’s recap is on the lecture given by Ken Buesseler, titled ‘Controls on and variability in particle export and flux attenuation in the ocean’s twilight zone’. Enjoy! Continue reading Challenger 2012 (Selected keynote lectures): Ken Buesseler (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution) – Controls on and variability in particle export and flux attenuation in the ocean’s twilight zone

Challenger 2012 (Selected keynote lectures): Jorge Sarmiento (Princeton University) – A biogeochemical paradigm shift

The 15th Biennial Challenger Conference for Marine Science recently took place at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, on 3-6 September 2012. There were over 100 talks, 150 posters, a contentious debate on wind power, and a talk on how the UK can maintain its current research infrastructure. Over the next week or so Words in mOcean will be bringing you a recap of the best of the action, starting with four of the keynote lectures. Today’s recap is on the lecture given by Jorge Sarmiento, titled ‘A biogeochemical paradigm shift’. Enjoy! Continue reading Challenger 2012 (Selected keynote lectures): Jorge Sarmiento (Princeton University) – A biogeochemical paradigm shift

UK government hangs oceanography out to dry

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The UK was arguably the pioneer in the field of oceanography: James Cook included information on the oceans in his report on his famous voyages between 1768 and 1779; around about 1800 James Rennell wrote the first textbooks about currents in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans; Sir James Clark Ross took the first sounding in the deep sea in 1840; and the Royal Society sponsored the Challenger expedition (1872–76), the first true oceanographic cruise (laying the foundation for the field), traveling 70,000 nautical miles, resulting in a 50 volume report covering biological, physical and geological aspects of the ocean. Continue reading UK government hangs oceanography out to dry