Stories tagged Earth Buzz

RV Melville
RV MelvilleCourtesy WHOI
Being on a ship exploring the oceans: how cool is that?! If you can't be on the ship, or maybe you get seasick and don't want to be, check out videos from a real oceanography expedition.

An entire series is now on Science 360: The Knowledge Network. YouTube videos are filtered from some classrooms. Since Science 360 is sponsored by the National Science Foundation, their videos have passed a high academic standard and are not filtered.

Marine Microbes: Come see videos about us!
Marine Microbes: Come see videos about us!Courtesy C-MORE
The Center for Microbial Oceanography (C-MORE), headquartered at the University of Hawai`i, conducted the BiG RAPA oceanographic expedition. The C-MORE scientists sailed from Chile to Easter Island, making discoveries about micro-life in one of the least explored areas of the world's ocean.

Welcome aboard!

Jun
10
2011

Ever wanted to explore the ocean? Calm down, don't get out of your armchair, yet, Midwest. Thanks to Google Earth and researchers at Columbia University, you can take a sea cruise without leaving your pop or your Twitter account behind.
Map of the oceans: Does it change your perspective?
Map of the oceans: Does it change your perspective?Courtesy Saperaud

Why should you care about the oceans? Did you know that we have already consumed 90% of the population of large fish species in the ocean? That tiny plankton in the ocean provide 50-85% of the oxygen in the air we breathe? That ocean water is becoming more acidic from the same carbon dioxide emissions that warm our climate, thereby making it tough for some sea-life to survive?

Is a life without fish sticks really a life worth living?

Of course, you may not get all of that out of a spin on Google Earth, but exploring may well be the first step in your life-long romance with a crafty young cephalopod or a craggy-faced mid-ocean ridge. Plus, it's just darn cool.

Here is a pdf of a report on "American Teens’ Knowledge of Climate Change"
recently published by Yale University researchers.

http://environment.yale.edu/climate/news/american-teens-knowledge-of-cli...

May
22
2011

The Icelandic Meteorological Office announced Saturday May 21 at 2:00 pm CDT the eruption of the volcano Grímsvötn in Iceland (N64,24, W0172) following a short period of tremor. This is Iceland’s largest volcano. The eruption started under ice but spewed a plume up to 65,000 feet. Grímsvötn is a well monitored volcano. It last erupted in October 2004 and lasted about a week.

This eruption was larger than last year’s Eyjafjallajokull eruption, but will likely have less impact on air traffic. While Keflavik, the Iceland’s larges airport, was shut down, the ash plume from Grímsvötn is currently drifting east and north away from Europe.

Volcanic Ash Advisory Centers are set up across the globe to monitor volcanic ash and issue warnings as appropriate. These centers make use of satellite observations to monitor the eruptions and the movement of the ash cloud. Below is a link to a satellite animation of the eruption. This is a European satellite and the time between images is about 15 minutes.

http://cimss.ssec.wisc.edu/goes/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/110521_m...

May
18
2011

R/V Hespérides, docked at Aloha Tower in Honolulu, Hawai`i
R/V Hespérides, docked at Aloha Tower in Honolulu, Hawai`iCourtesy C-MORE
How would you like to be aboard a ship, circumnavigating the globe, collecting samples from the world’s ocean?

That’s exactly what Spanish oceanographers are doing on their Malaspina Expedition aboard the Research Vessel, R/V Hespérides. Scientists and crew left southern Spain in December, reached New Zealand in mid-April, and recently arrived in Hawai`i. The expedition's primary goals are to:

  • build upon the historic 1789-1794 Malaspina expedition to promote interest in marine sciences among the Spanish public, particularly the nation’s youth
  • collect oceanographic and atmospheric data -- chemical, physical and biological – that will help evaluate the impact of global change
  • explore the variety of marine life, including microbes, especially those living in the deep sea
  • CTD: As this oceanographic instrument is lowered over the side of a ship, each gray Niskin “bottle” can be electronically triggered to collect a seawater sample from a different ocean depth.
    CTD: As this oceanographic instrument is lowered over the side of a ship, each gray Niskin “bottle” can be electronically triggered to collect a seawater sample from a different ocean depth.Courtesy C-MORE
    In connection with the latter two goals, the Malaspina scientists met with their colleagues at the Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education (C-MORE). The two groups of scientists are working together. "We can exchange data on the local effects, what's happening around the Hawaiian Islands, and they can tell us what's happening in the middle of the Pacific," said Dr. Dave Karl, University of Hawai`i oceanography professor and Director of C-MORE.

    The Malaspina-C-MORE partnership is the kind of cooperation that can help solve environmental problems which stretch beyond an individual nation’s borders. The R/V Hespérides has now left Honolulu on its way to Panama and Colombia. From there, the scientists expect to complete their ocean sampling through the Atlantic Ocean and return to Spain by July. Buen viaje!

The National Research Council recently released a series of new videos including this one on Informing an Effective Response to Climate Change, as well as a final report.

May
02
2011

the ocean's 5 major gyres
the ocean's 5 major gyresCourtesy NOAA
We often talk about the ocean ecosystem. And, indeed, there is really just one, world-wide ocean, since all oceans are connected. An Indian Ocean earthquake sends tsunami waves to distant coasts. Whitecaps look as white anywhere in the world. The ocean swirls in similar patterns.

However, oceanographers do find differences from place to place. For example, let’s take a closer look at the chemistry of two swirls, or gyres as they’re more properly called. Scientists have found a micro difference between the North Atlantic Gyre and the North Pacific Gyre. The Atlantic generally has really low levels of phosphorus, measurably lower than the North Pacific Gyre.

the element phosphorus among its neighbors in the Periodic Table of the Elements
the element phosphorus among its neighbors in the Periodic Table of the ElementsCourtesy modified from Wikipedia
Phosphorus is a very important element in living things. For example, it’s a necessary ingredient in ATP (adenosine tri-phosphate), the energy molecule used by all forms of life. Phosphorus is picked up from seawater by bacteria. All other marine life depends upon these bacteria, either directly or indirectly, for P. Therefore, if you’re bacteria living in the impoverished North Atlantic Gyre, you’d better be really good at getting phosphorus.

And they are!

Oceanographers at the Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education (C-MORE) at the University of Hawai`i have made an important discovery. C-MORE scientists Sallie Chisholm, based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and her former graduate student Maureen Coleman, now a scientist at the California Institute of Technology, have been studying two species of oceanic bacteria. Prochlorococcus is an autotrophic bacterium that photosynthesizes its own food; Pelagibacter, is a heterotrophic bacterium that consumes food molecules made by others.

Pacific HOT and Atlantic BATS Stations: Microbial samples were collected at each location.
Pacific HOT and Atlantic BATS Stations: Microbial samples were collected at each location.Courtesy C-MORE
Drs. Chisholm and Coleman took samples of these two kinds of bacteria from both the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean. The Atlantic samples were collected by the Bermuda Atlantic Time-Series (BATS) program. The Pacific samples were collected in the North Pacific Gyre (about 90 miles north of Honolulu) by the Hawai`i Ocean Time-Series (HOT) program. The scientists discovered surprising differences in the genetic code of the bacteria between the two locations:

  • First of all, the Atlantic populations of both bacterial species have more phosphorus-related genes compared to their Pacific cousins. (Picture Atlantic microbes in Superman outfits with a big "P" on their chests!)
  • Secondly, in the Atlantic, Prochlorococcus has different kinds of P-related genes compared to Pelagibacter. Perhaps this means the two microbial species have evolved over time to use different phosphorus sources, to avoid competing with one another for this limited resource.

Drs. Chisholm and Coleman have discovered important micro differences between bacteria of the same species in two oceanic gyres. Now we can better understand how these microbes are working to recycle an important nutrient beneath the whitecaps.

Reference: October 11, 2010 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Apr
28
2011

A number of severe thunderstorms have swept through the SE US recently. Some storms generated tornadoes that were truly devastating. The news channels have many photos of the ground destruction. We can see the path of the storms in satellite images. Here is a link to one of those images.

A comparison of 250-meter resolution image from a NASA MODIS instrument at 0.65 µm and 0.87 µm visible channel images centered on Tuscaloosa, Alabama on 28 April 2011 showed signatures of a few of the larger and longer tornado damage paths from the historic tornado outbreak (SPC storm reports) that occurred on 27 April 2011. The yellow arrows point to some of the paths.

Here is a link to an animation between the two channelsMODIS Image of Tornado Paths on 28 April 2011: NASA Satellite image see tornado path
MODIS Image of Tornado Paths on 28 April 2011: NASA Satellite image see tornado pathCourtesy CIMSS UW-Madison

http://cimss.ssec.wisc.edu/goes/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/110428_m...

Twenty-five years ago today, during a routine electrical power test at the Chernobyl Atomic Power Station,

"an uncontrollable power surge occurred, sparking two explosions in the reactor and the ejection of deadly radioactive material into the air."

Dozens died from acute radiation syndrome (ARS) and hundreds have died over the last quarter century from chronic exposure to elevated radiations levels.

The Telegraph has a well-written brief summary and links to related articles for further reading. Of course, Boston.com has some powerful photographs as well.

Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday dear, Earth Day. Happy birthday to you!
Stop it!: You are making Earth blush.
Stop it!: You are making Earth blush.Courtesy NASA

Today Earth Day turns 41 years young. Earth day was born in Wisconsin to loving "father" Senator Gaylord Nelson on Wednesday, April 22, 1970. Twenty million Americans left school and work to welcome Earth Day into the world and to protest the country's lack of environmental policy.

As a result, in December of 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was established, and the 70s and 80s saw the birth of dozens of important environmental policies like the Clear Air and Water Acts.

If you want to learn more about Earth Day, check out the EPA's Earth Day page or this manuscript by Gaylord Nelson himself.