Warming global climate means warmer oceans too!

Graph made in Plot.ly of increases in sea surface temperature

The rise in sea surface temperature 1880-2012 as compared to a baseline average.

Recently we made a graph using Plot.ly which shows that sea surface temperatures are rising. Scary stuff. (You can click the graph for a better view.)

Of course, not really a surprise since global average temperatures have increased 0.74°C during a similar time frame. To see this increase reflected in the oceans, one way to read this graph is by comparing the amount of change to the 1971 to 2000 average line.

This graph shows how the average surface temperature of the world’s oceans has changed since 1880. The shaded band shows the range of uncertainty in the data, which is caused by error during the time the instrumental temperature record was kept by hand. The narrowing of this to a single line prior to 1980 reflects the addition of satellite measurements.

Did you know the ocean plays an important role in slowing increases in the planet’s temperature because it absorbs heat from the atmosphere and warms much more slowly itself?

Want to play around with this data or Plot.ly, the web’s newest collaborative graphing software (which is amazing I must say) yourself? Find this graph here: https://plot.ly/~drewfbush/7/average-global-sea-surface-temperature-1880-2012/

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So, what’s the difference between the Northern and Common seastar?

Not much, it turns out. The most common sea star in the North Atlantic (and the waters around Star Island) derives its name from being just that: the common sea star. Otherwise known as Asterias rubens for you scientists. You’ve likely seen them many times in the marine lab over the years.

The common sea star or Asterias rubens.

The common sea star or Asterias rubens.

So what, then, about the other ubiquitous species the Northern sea star or Asterias vulgaris? Turns out scientists have long ago concluded they are the same species. This two-named sea star eats bivalves (a favorite prey item is the blue mussel) and gastropods. They also eat crustaceans and worms. They act both as active predators and scavengers.

P.S. We stopped calling them star fish a long time ago since they actually aren’t much like fish. They do not have gills, scales, or fins like fish do and they move quite differently from fish. While fish propel themselves with their tails, sea stars have tiny tube feet to help them move along.

Another common species in the North Atlantic, around Star, is the Forbes seastar or Asterias forbesi.

The Forbes seastar or Asteria Forbesi

The Forbes seastar or Asteria Forbesi.

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