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/

Historic shots of the sea floor

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Seafloor Snowblower

A historic shot of the sea floor in 1991 was taken from the submersible Alvin where scientists found themselves in something that looked like a snowstorm on the bottom of the sea. As the institution reports:

They had arrived soon after a seafloor volcanic eruption in which hydrothermal vents spewed huge volumes of white bacterial matter into the ocean at 9°50’N on the East Pacific Rise at a depth of 2,500 meters (8,250 feet).

The ocean, on average, is 4,267 meters (14,000 feet) deep. The deepest part of the ocean is called the Challenger Deep and is located in the southern end of the Mariana Trench (of the West Pacific Ocean). Challenger Deep is approximately 11,030 meters (36,200 feet) deep. It is named after the HMS Challenger, whose crew first sounded the depths of the trench in 1875.

This picture was taken in the Atlantic however. Rachel Haymon (UC Santa Barbara) and Dan Fornari (WHOI) were chief scientists on the expedition that made the first direct observation of these so-called “snowblower” vents and offered initial clues to a “deep biosphere” with potentially large populations of microorganisms living within the ocean crust at mid-ocean ridges.

(Photo by R. Haymon, D. Fornari, and the Alvin Group, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution). Find more WHOI pictures of the day here: http://www.whoi.edu/image-of-the-day/

Inspire future young shoalers by supporting Acid Horizon

Have you heard about Acid Horizon? If you haven’t yet, there’s no time better than now.  Learn how you can help a group of our very own shoalers share an important and visually stunning message about one of the major threats facing our oceans (click here or like it on Facebook). First watch the video below and then read on.

Dr. Erik Cordes (Photo courtesy of Erik Cordes).

Dr. Erik Cordes with Alvin in the background (Photo courtesy of Erik Cordes).

Awesome right? Today we’re lucky to present an interview with Temple University Assistant Professor Dr. Erik Cordes, who specializes in the ecology of cold-seep and deep coral communities, about his work examining the impacts of ocean acidification. A Star Island Corporation Board Member, he’s enlisted the help of life-long Star Island friends Kurt Langer and Ivan Hurzeler to film his cruise in the Gulf of Mexico next April-May on the E/V Nautilus and the dives he’ll be making in the well-known deep sea submersible Alvin.

The dives will give him firsthand evidence on how the deep sea corals he studies have been able to better withstand the changing chemistry of the ocean. Now I know it’s hard to think about how ocean acidification might impact our time on Star Island. Dr. Cordes, who traces his love of the ocean to growing up on Star, explains:

Ocean acidification is going to impact everyone’s life in the near future, if it isn’t already. This past year saw the fewest young oysters settling in Washington state in history. In the Gulf of Maine, ocean acidification will result in increases in disease in lobsters. No one wants to see lobster night affected! (Except maybe some waitrae). The problem in the deep sea is that we are just beginning to understand just how connected it is to the surface.

But to get this message out (more from Dr. Cordes on ocean acidification below) and make the full-length film, they need our help raising funds. They’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign which has only 24 days left. (Kickstarter is a way independent artists fund their creative projects by reaching out to their own communities). As part of their campaign, the filmmaker’s shared with us this appeal to the Star Island community for your help:

A film like this has the potential to inspire young people (and future shoalers) to be better stewards of our oceans and the world’s climate. (The Sundance Film Festival agrees, recenty featuring it on their web site.) Just listen to how the film’s producer and Star Island Corporation Member Kurt Langer describes it:

This is a film we are very proud of because it not only informs the public about Ocean Acidification, but tells a riveting story about the perils of deep-sea exploration and what that means for the scientists and their families.  We will be capturing images from the abyss that no one has ever seen before, and at the same time we’ll be painting an intimate portrait of one of our fellow Shoalers.

Clearly the Star Island connection is very important to the filmmakers. Langer adds:

In a very real sense, this film is a product of Star Island.  All three of us (Erik, Ivan and myself) have been going out to Star since we were in kindergarten.  Our love of the ocean and our sense of responsibility for its well-being are values that we learned on Star.  We know that every Shoaler reading this feels the same sense of stewardship, and that’s what makes Star Island such a special community and unique backdrop for portions of our film.

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Visualize surface ocean circulation from space

For those of you interested in learning more about ocean currents, particularly those around the Gulf of Maine (where the Isles of Shoals are located), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration presents a cool new graphical representation:

One could spend several blog posts going into depth on different types of ocean currents, the processes that drive them, and their relationship to the atmosphere. So, instead, I point out a a few cool features here.

1. Massive clockwise and counterclockwise gyres (those big turning circles) in each of the major oceans. In the Northern Hemisphere they turn clockwise while in the Southern Hemisphere they move counterclockwise. Know why? That’s right it’s the Coriolis Effect in each hemisphere. Not sure what this means? Click on the words to be taken to a link which describes the Coriolis Effect. But, put simply, it’s the way the inertial force of a rotating object deflects the path of an object moving upon it (think of a child throwing a ball on a merry-go-round).

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Ever seen a coral polyp up close?

Coral and ocean acidification

A coral polyp and it’s skeleton (Photo by Liz Drenkard, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

Today’s Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution picture of the day catches a coral polyp early in it’s life (three-weeks-old) at left and its delicate skeleton at right.

MIT-WHOI Joint Program student Liz Drenkard studies the way corals respond to increasing ocean acidification, which can impede their ability to build their calcium carbonate skeletons.

Drenkard recently reported that:

Under both normal and high carbon dioxide levels, baby corals that she fed well built larger skeletons and thus calcified more rapidly than unfed corals, which obtained nutrition primarily from their photosynthesizing symbiotic algae.

Drenkard’s results suggest that corals living where there is ample food may withstand the effects of ocean acidification better than corals living where food is scarce.

Ocean Acidification (Courtesy of NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory Carbon Dioxide Program)

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